More alarming than Craig Kimbrel sitting 94 mph and giving up tons of loud contact was David Ross noting publicly that something was wrong with his closer’s delivery. Sure enough, though, an adjustment or two may have been all Kimbrel needed.
Kimbrel's best outing of the spring for sure. 14 pitches, 6 fastballs, sat 97, hit 98. Got two swinging Ks, both on CBs. Already getting better reports from scouts in the seats today. Heater had rise consistently, not the two-seam action that gets him in trouble
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) March 20, 2021
Not only was the fastball back up to 98 mph on Saturday, but it was getting the “rise” that keeps it up in the zone. That helps set up his curve, which got two swinging strikeouts. While it’d be foolish to take one outing as a proof that Kimbrel is all the way back, this is a harbinger of positive future results.
Kris Bryant hasn’t put up very big numbers yet this spring, particularly when it comes to his power. Heck, his OPS was just .563 after starting Saturday’s game 0-for-2 with a strikeout, and his OBP accounted for well over half of that.
But it’s clear Bryant is seeing the ball well, as he’s drawn six walks to seven strikeouts so far. All that’s missing is his timing, perhaps a function of getting used to a minor swing adjustment that has him loading into his back leg just a tad bit more to increase bat speed and help him drive the ball more.
Drive the ball he did in his third at-bat, launching a tank deep onto the berm in left-center. Expect many more of those patented KB moonshots as he puts everything together.
Also of note, Jake Marisnick pounded his second homer of the spring in Saturday’s win. Maybe the backup outfielder really does have a little more pop than expected, which would be a very pleasant surprise if his defense lives up to the hype.
Solid pitching performances abound
- Even if the overall results weren’t stellar, Pedro Strop hit 95 on the gun twice. That’s several ticks higher than last year with the Reds.
- Trevor Williams worked five innings and had four strikeouts with just one walk. He seems like a near lock for the rotation.
- Shelby Miller had two strikeouts and no walks in one inning of work, which seems to indicate he’s battling for a bullpen spot and isn’t part of the rotation mix.
- The Cubs walked only two batters and are doing a good job of limiting free baserunners in general. Walks have long been a bugaboo for this team, but Jed Hoyer may have assembled a staff that can miss bats while still hitting the zone.