Kimbrel getting along fine, works on improving last year's stats

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs pitcher Craig Kimbrel walks on the field during team baseball practice at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

    Chicago Cubs pitcher Craig Kimbrel walks on the field during team baseball practice at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

 
 
Updated 7/10/2020 7:25 PM

Perhaps the biggest question facing the Cubs on the field is the status of reliever Craig Kimbrel.

After serving as closer for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox in 2018, Kimbrel remained unsigned until June 7 last year, when the Cubs snapped him up. And it didn't go great: 0-4 with a 6.54 ERA, 13 saves and 3 blown saves.

 

Kimbrel gave up a home run to Willson Contreras in his summer-camp scrimmage debut Tuesday, but he wasn't concerned.

"I felt pretty good about (Tuesday)," Kimbrel said. "I was just trying to throw the ball over the plate. That's the first time I've had guys in the box taking swings off me in the last three months. To be able to get out there and throw the ball over the plate and get some pretty good feedback, it was a good day."

Kimbrel, 32, is a seven-time all-star and only one other time in his career (2016 with the Red Sox) did he have an ERA above 3. So he does have a history of success. Kimbrel also was a teammate of Cubs manager David Ross in Atlanta from 2010-12.

"I think he's still got a few things to iron out," Ross said. "Every pitcher is looking at the data afterward, looking at the high-speed camera, seeing where their arm positioning is, comparing it to the success they've had in the past and trying to make small adjustments."

Ross speaks:

Manager David Ross said Friday first baseman Anthony Rizzo is progressing but still day to day with his back. Ross joked that people are making comparisons to "Where's Waldo" because Rizzo has been wandering all over Wrigley Field to experience the action from different vantage points.

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Ross also said COVID-19 testing is going much smoother, but there are some adjustments to be made, which could lead to more delayed workouts on a given day.

Speaking of testing, lefty reliever Kyle Ryan is in town and has tested negative for COVID-19, according to Cubs president Theo Epstein. Ryan hasn't been in camp for what the team termed "protocol technicalities." He had a 3.54 ERA in 73 appearances last year.

Ross said next week he wants to work on situational game action and said coaches are working to build up starting pitchers. He said getting prepared to pitch 5 innings would be nice, but he isn't setting a firm goal.

Kipnis at second:

While there's plenty of certainty in the lineup, second base is one spot manager David Ross has options. The Cubs signed veteran Jason Kipnis in the off-season and also have a promising younger option in Nico Hoerner, who slashed .282/.305/.436 with 3 home runs with 17 RBI in just 78 at-bats last September.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

How will Ross decide without a full spring training?

"Watching at-bats (in scrimmages), defensive work, see who is moving well, some ideas from spring training, see how BP looks and then you have to choose one and go with them," Ross said.

• Kevin Schmit and John Lemon contributed to this notebook

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