Cubs Activate Craig Kimbrel From Injured List

The Cubs have activated closer Craig Kimbrel from the 10-day injured list, the team announced.  Kimbrel is set to pitch for the first time since September 1 (with an IL placement on September 5), after being sidelined with right elbow inflammation.

Reinforcements couldn’t come at a more welcome time for the Cubs, who are locked in a pitched battle with the Cardinals and Brewers for both the NL Central title and an NL wild card berth.  Chicago is three games behind St. Louis as the two rivals begin a critical four-game series tonight, and are also set to meet in a three-game series on the final three days of the regular season.  The Cubs and Brewers are tied for the second NL wild card spot, and with an increasingly comfortable cushion on other wild card contenders such as the Mets (three games back), Phillies (3.5 games), and Diamondbacks (4.5 games).  Chicago and Milwaukee are also both 1.5 games behind the Nationals for the top wild card position.

While missing close to three weeks of this pennant race surely isn’t what Kimbrel had in mind, his injury absence could serve as something of a potential reset on his tenure with the Cubs.  Kimbrel’s well-documented free agent sojourn kept him from signing until early June, and the former seven-time All-Star hasn’t shown anything close to that form in Wrigleyville.  Over 19 innings this season, Kimbrel has a 5.68 ERA, a number inflated by both walks (5.2 BB/9) and homers (2.8 HR/9, four times’ Kimbrel’s career average).

If Kimbrel can recapture any of his past form, he’ll strengthen a Cubs relief corps that is pitching its best baseball of the season.  Cubs relievers have a cumulative 2.35 ERA in September, the best of any team this month.