Craig Kimbrel could finally make Cubs debut on Thursday

After four tune-up appearances in the minor leagues, Craig Kimbrel is ready to make his Chicago Cubs debut.

Kimbrel, a seven-time All-Star, was called up from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday and could be called upon to pitch in the Cubs’ series finale against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field.

In a free agency that extended two months into the season, Kimbrel, a 31-year-old righty with 333 career saves, signed a three-year, $43 million deal with Chicago on June 7. Because he signed so late, Kimbrel spent the last three weeks reacclimating to facing live batters, first in extended spring training and then in the minor leagues.

Kimbrel made four appearances for Iowa, giving up one run and two hits in 3 ⅔ innings overall. In his most recent appearance, Kimbrel tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning on Tuesday night.

It is unclear if Kimbrel, who had 42 saves for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox in 2018, will immediately be thrust into the closer’s role by Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

New Chicago Cubs pitcher Craig Kimbrel puts on his new jersey and hat after being introduced by Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
After signing with the Chicago Cubs earlier this month, pitcher Craig Kimbrel has been called up. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

Maddon has turned to Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek in the ninth-inning role throughout the year. Strop leads the team with nine saves while Cishek has pitched in seven. Brandon Morrow, who led the team with 22 saves last year, is on the injured list after having elbow surgery.

The Cubs are currently 43-37 on the year and hold a one-game lead in the NL Central standings. They will look to avoid being swept by Atlanta later Thursday.

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