Refilling Cubs’ pen: Closer Craig Kimbrel to be activated from IL Sunday; Steve Cishek also close
Kimbrel has missed the last 13 games because of a knee issue. Cishek, a late-inning workhorse for two seasons, has been out for the last week with a hip injury but says he feels normal again physically and expects to return Tuesday.
PITTSBURGH — The Cubs aren’t expected to make the announcement until Sunday, but closer Craig Kimbrel was on the travel roster for their charter to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and is expected to be activated from the injured list in time for the Little League Classic.
Kimbrel has missed the last 13 games because of an issue with his right knee, including the Cubs’ fifth and sixth losses of the season when leading entering the ninth inning. He threw two bullpen sessions in the last five days.
‘‘He’s very confident that he’s fine,’’ manager Joe Maddon said.
For a team whose bullpen has taken it on a roller-coaster ride this season, Kimbrel’s return can’t come fast enough.
It will come two days after setup man Brandon Kintzler returned from a pectoral injury, then struggled with his command in blowing a ninth-inning lead in a loss Friday to the Pirates. That came a day after the Cubs blew a 5-0 lead in the final two innings in a loss Thursday to the Phillies.
On Saturday, the Cubs closed out a 2-0 victory against the Pirates with the help of two-plus innings from Tyler Chatwood, who pitched out of a two-on, nobody-out jam in the seventh after an eight-day layoff, and a first career save from rookie Rowan Wick.
‘‘His stuff is so explosive, especially in the zone,’’ starter Jon Lester (10-8) said of Chatwood. ‘‘I think he’s kind of found something. Today was huge.
‘‘And then Rowan coming in and getting his first save, that was pretty cool.’’
Bullpen workhorse Steve Cishek (hip) looks as though he’ll be ready to return from the IL on Tuesday after throwing another bullpen session Saturday.
‘‘My last two bullpens have gone well,’’ said Cishek, who indicated he feels back to normal physically. ‘‘And I don’t feel like I’m typically a good bullpen pitcher. . . . . But I felt great, so we’ll see what happens.’’
When the moon hits your eye . . .
It took awhile, but the Wrigley Field concessionaires finally got on board with the hottest pizza story in the city.
Starting Saturday, when the Cubs host the Nationals, Wrigley pizza provider Giordano’s will rename its pepperoni offering ‘‘Quintana’s Pepperoni Pizza’’ in Sections 103 and 129.
‘‘I’ll take it, that’s good,’’ said left-hander Jose Quintana, who wasn’t told of the plan but said he gladly will accept a slice.
As some might recall, Quintana called from the bullpen phone in Cincinnati to the dugout looking for someone, then played along and ‘‘ordered’’ a pepperoni pizza after a wise-guy beat writer answered the dugout phone with, ‘‘Pizza Hut.’’
He beat the Reds the next day to snap a nine-start winless streak and hasn’t lost since (6-0 with a 3.40 ERA in eight starts and 50 strikeouts to seven walks in 47 2/3 innings).
‘‘Pepperoni,’’ he said. ‘‘It keeps working.’’
Quintana is scheduled to start Sunday against the Pirates in the Little League Classic.
Given the chance to talk to Little League kids Sunday in Williamsport, Maddon said his message will be simple.
‘‘I’m just going to talk about having fun and running hard to first base,’’ he said. ‘‘Every manager or coach you’re going to ever have loves players who work hard and hustle.
‘‘That’s what they need to hear. They don’t need to hear launch angles and when it’s time to replay-challenge a tag at second base and all this crazy stuff that we’re devolving into.’’