A trio of updates on a trio of Cubs relievers, each working through various stages of injury recovery and/or readiness.
On Craig Kimbrel, it seems his first live batting practice session went as everyone hoped:
Theo said Kimbrel threw 24 pitches to 5 hitters today: "Went great. Right where he needs to be."
Will throw another one in a couple days. Theo also said radar gun is where it should be as well.
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) June 14, 2019
Theo: Kimbrel threw 24 pitches in live BP session today. Will have "at least one more" live BP workout. Epstein was careful not to say what the exact schedule is for Kimbrel. Called the plan a "rough draft" that will go off how the pitcher feels/recovers.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 14, 2019
Let’s just imagine for the sake of argument that Kimbrel throws again on Sunday, and feels good. The Arizona Rookie League kicks off next week, so if the Cubs wanted to ease Kimbrel into game action there, while he’s still in Arizona, it’s not inconceivable he could do an inning there – see how he looks/feels – and then head to Iowa later in the week. With a few outings at Iowa, Kimbrel would be on pace to join the Cubs right at the end of this month.
As we’ve discussed, the Cubs may want to be even more conservative than that, though, aiming to reduce the chance that Kimbrel isn’t totally, fully, Spring-Training-y ramped up before he starts closing out high-adrenaline games for the Cubs. And that’s fine. It’s fine. I’m just anxious. I want to see him out there for the Cubs. It’ll happen soon enough.
On the flip side, there’s nothing especially positive to update on the Brandon Morrow front. The former Cubs closer is still throwing on flat ground, with no new milestones achieved (Bastian). You’ll recall that Morrow was recovering from offseason elbow surgery and ramping up for a late-April/early-May return when he experienced a setback, got a lubricating injection and has been playing catch (at most) ever since. At this point, a return in the first half of the season is not possible, and a return at all this year should not be considered better than 50/50. Sucks. But that’s where things are.
As for an injured reliever who is very close to finally making his Cubs debut, Tony Barnette is cruising at Iowa:
Barnette has now tossed six straight scoreless outings during this MLB Rehab stint with the I-Cubs. Two total baserunners allowed in 5.2 IP.
— Alex Cohen (@voiceofcohen) June 14, 2019
Barnette has been easy to forget in the shuffle of Iowa arms and higher profile injury/rehabs, but the 35-year-old righty was fantastic for the Rangers ever since returning from Japan later in his career, and, if the shoulder is finally healthy, he’s as good a bet as any other Iowa arm to come up and contribute.