Craig Kimbrel’s Timeline for Cubs Debut Revealed by Manager Joe Maddon

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Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Newly signed Chicago Cubs reliever Craig Kimbrel may not make his debut with the big club until late in the month of June.

According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that Kimbrel may need a three-week tuneup before joining the team but added, “You got to talk to the guy first and see what he’s doing.”

Kimbrel signed what ESPN reported was a three-year, $43 million deal with the Cubs on Wednesday after spending more than two months of the season as a free agent.

Kimbrel is set to join a somewhat shaky Cubs bullpen that lacks a definitive closer. Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek have primarily served in the closer role, but Chicago is tied for the second-most blown saves in Major League Baseball this season with 12.

While the Cubs have the 10th-best bullpen ERA at 4.17, they are 18th in batting average against (.247) and tied for 23rd in bullpen walks (105).

In Kimbrel, the Cubs now have one of the most successful closers of the past decade. Over nine MLB seasons with the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox, Kimbrel owns a 1.91 ERA, a strikeout rate of 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings and 333 saves in 367 opportunities.

Kimbrel ranks 14th on the all-time MLB saves list, and he is tops in that category among active players.

While Kimbrel has been named an All-Star in each of the past three seasons and seven times overall, he had an up-and-down campaign with the Red Sox in 2018.

The 31-year-old went 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 42 saves, but his five blown saves were the second-most of his career. Kimbrel also posted a 5.91 ERA in nine playoff appearances during Boston’s run to a World Series championship.

It is unclear if Kimbrel will immediately be thrust into the spotlight as the closer when he joins Chicago’s 25-man roster, but until he is ready to assume that role, Chicago will likely continue to mix and match with the likes of Strop and Cishek at the end of games.