Cubs News: Craig Kimbrel struggles again, despite team’s belief in him

(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Cubs reliever Craig Kimbrel continues to struggle, leaving a void in the bullpen.

Despite the immense struggles in the bullpen, the Chicago Cubs have been winning ball games. The bats have been coming alive and the starting rotation has shown unexpected strength since Opening Day. You have to admit, despite all of the uncertainty in the league involving COVID-19 and more, it is still a great time for Cubs baseball. However, despite the team’s recent success, there are still improvements that could be made. One area of the team that could benefit from a change is the bullpen.

Going into the season, it was clear that 32-year-old reliever Craig Kimbrel had the closer gig on lockdown. The $43 million right-hander struggled last summer after joining the club, but the hope was over the offseason he would be able to work on his mechanics and get back to the pitcher he was before 2019.

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Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Kimbrel is still struggling and first-year skipper David Ross is already facing questions regarding the hurler’s role and future in the bullpen.

"“I continue to say it to you guys,” Ross said after Tuesday’s win over Kansas City. “We really need Craig Kimbrel to be a big part of this bullpen. We have to throw him. We have to get him innings and continue to kind of judge where he’s at according to seeing what the hitters do.”"

Ross went to Kimbrel in the ninth in that ballgame – and once again, the hurler fell short. His curveball induced zero swings yet again and the Royals hitters were sitting dead-red on his fastball. Kansas City barreled up a pair of them, leading the Cubs to go to left-hander Kyle Ryan to finish off the game.

Last weekend, Ross told reporters he wanted to talk with Kimbrel privately before making any sort of declarations about the closer’s job. Since then, though, Ross has largely taken a closer-by-committee approach.

Kimbrel will continue working on his mechanics and trying to improve under Ross’ guidance. Ross didn’t mention specifics but he acknowledged that confidence on the mound could positively impact the seven-time All-Star. At this point, one thing is clear: Chicago has to get this guy figured out.

"“We’ve had a lot of conversations with him already,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told Marquee recently. “That’s all we’re thinking about. We know he can get right, but he’s not right right now. I think everyone is well aware of that and that’s gonna be our focus going forward.”"

Kimbrel has struggled throughout his tenure with the North Siders. Since he had signed with the Cubs in the middle of the 2019 season, Kimbrel posted a 6.53 ERA and gave up a career-high nine home runs in a total of 20 2/3 innings. Before 2019, Kimbrel had a career 1.91 ERA and 333 saves. As far as 2020 is concerned, Kimbrel has had a total of three outings – none of which have gone smoothly.

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In his 2020 debut against the Cincinnati Reds on July 27, Kimbrel gave up four walks, uncorked a wild pitch and hit a batter. Not only did this emphasize Kimbrel’s difficulty with command but it also foreshadowed his next appearance on July 31 where he gave up two homers against the Pittsburgh Pirates. After another shoddy showing Tuesday, hopefully, Kimbrel can overcome his struggles and get back to being the reliever he was before his move to Chicago.