CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Cubs manager David Ross is working out how he plans to handle save situations while struggling closer Craig Kimbrel tries to fix his mechanics.
Ross was non-committal when asked Saturday if he would give the ball to Kimbrel for the ninth inning if Chicago had a one-run lead. Sure enough, the Cubs then had a 4-3 lead with two outs in the ninth against Pittsburgh and Rowan Wick finished for his first save of the year.
Kimbrel struggled in his first two appearances after he had a tough time last season with Chicago.
“It’s going to be daily with him, daily conversations,” Ross said. “He threw a pretty intense bullpen today trying to work out some things, so wanted to stay away from him tonight.”
It’s a tough situation for Ross, who took over as manager in October. He played alongside Kimbrel while the two were in Atlanta. The 32-year-old Kimbrel is a key member of Chicago’s bullpen, but the pandemic-shortened season is quite unforgiving at just 60 games.
“I think the relationship that we’ve had helps with the conversations we’ve had lately,” Ross said. “I think he has a lot of trust in me. I have a lot of trust in him. We communicate well. We’ll continue to do that as we move through these things.”
If Ross decides to give Kimbrel some time out of the closer role, he could have Jeremy Jeffress take at least some save opportunities. Jeffress, who signed an $850,000, one-year contract with Chicago in free agency, has 45 saves in 11 years in the majors.
Jeffress entered in the seventh Saturday night and got four outs in the victory.
Kimbrel was once one of the most dominant relievers in the game. He was tagged with a qualifying offer when he became a free agent last winter, which contributed to the seven-time All-Star waiting all the way until last June before finalizing a $43 million, three-year contract with the Cubs.
Kimbrel struggled with injuries after he finally signed, finishing with a career-high 6.53 ERA and three blown saves in 16 chances last year.
The right-hander made his first appearance of this season at Cincinnati on Thursday. He issued four walks and allowed two runs before Jeffress got the last two outs, earning the save in Chicago’s 8-7 victory.
Kimbrel pitched again Friday night against Pittsburgh, allowing home runs by Colin Moran and Josh Bell in the ninth inning of the Cubs’ 6-3 win.
Kimbrel’s upper-90s mph velocity is there, but Ross said he is having some issues with his motion.
“I think there are some mechanical things that we can shore up to where he’s back to hiding the ball a little bit more, a little more deception in his delivery,” Ross said. “When he’s right, and some of the conversations we’ve had he’s not quite where he wants to be in that. He’s kind of in between.”
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