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Deal him in? ‘Strong possibility’ Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel will be activated for Cards series opener

After a heavy bullpen night in Wednesday’s 10-inning loss to the Reds, the Cubs expected Kimbrel to return to the bullpen Thursday after being sidelined more than two weeks because of a sore elbow.

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Closer Craig Kimbrel’s elbow appeared to check out fine Wednesday, the day after throwing a simulated inning, and Maddon said after the game there’s a “strong possibility” he’ll be activated for Thursday’s opener of the big Cards series.

Kimbrel declined to talk with media before and again after the game.

He played catch again during routine pregame work, which was considered the last step to take before a possible final evaluation early Thursday.

Kimbrel hasn’t pitched since Sept. 1 because of a sore elbow, leading to his second trip to the injured list (also sore knee) in less than three months with the club.

Kintzler eyes final trip

Setup man Brandon Kintzler, who has tried to manage a “mild” oblique strain for the last month, fared well in a brief session off a mound Wednesday as well as a throwing session on flat ground.

“Good day; great day,” he said as he headed to the clubhouse afterward.

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said he expects Kintzler to throw one more bullpen session before being ready for game action – possibly by Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals.

The Cubs have an off day after that before starting a six-game road trip to finish the season.

Russell close?

For the first time since entering baseball’s concussion protocol, infielder Addison Russell participated in a full schedule of hitting and fielding pregame work Wednesday.

He looked fit and upbeat, performing easily, laughing with teammates and even chatting with two reporters (against the rules of the concussion protocol).

He’s eligible to return from the concussion IL on Thursday, but team officials weren’t prepared to commit to that timeline Wednesday.

Double vision

Nick Castellanos’ 56th double, in the fourth inning (after a replay challenge upheld the call), tied him with seven others for 13th all-time for a season.

With 10 games to play, he’s 11 short of Earl Webb’s 88-year-old record. He needs seven to crack the top five all-time.