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Craig Kimbrel back to being Cubs’ full-time closer in 2021

Manager David Ross said Tuesday that Kimbrel will return to his role as closer for the 2021 season.

Craig Kimbrell will once again be the Cubs closer.
Craig Kimbrell will once again be the Cubs closer.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

MESA, Ariz. – Cubs manager David Ross named reliever Craig Kimbrel his closer with pitchers and catchers set to report to camp Wednesday.

‘‘Craig is going to be our closer,’’ Ross said Tuesday. ‘‘He went through a little bit of bumps [in 2020], and he worked his way back into being himself.’’

Kimbrel struggled significantly early in the 2020 season and was demoted from his role as the closer after allowing at least one earned run in four consecutive appearances.

But Kimbrel, 32, rebuilt his confidence and got the velocity on his fastball back, showing the 100 mph heater the Cubs expected after signing him in 2019. He had a 1.54 ERA with 24 strikeouts and six walks in his last 13 appearances.

‘‘Talking to him, he feels great,’’ Ross said. ‘‘This offseason, the work and the videos he sent in, he looks really polished already. He’s a veteran guy, knows how to prepare himself for spring training. We’ll give him a pretty long runway just to get ready. And as long as Craig is who we know he can be, he’s going to be our closer.’’

Wick, Ryan won’t start on time

Right-hander Rowan Wick (intercostal injury) and left-hander Kyle Ryan (COVID-19 protocols) will be delayed in their start to the spring, president Jed Hoyer said.

Wick, who’s expected to be one of the Cubs’ high-leverage relievers, missed the end of the regular season and the postseason in 2020 with a strained left oblique. Since coming over from the Padres in 2019, he has a 2.66 ERA in 50 games.

Ryan struggled last season, going 1-0 with a 5.17 ERA in 18 games after a successful 2019.

‘‘I expect [Ryan] to be somewhat delayed,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘Other than that, I don’t expect anyone else to be delayed. I guess I would just caution everyone, as we go through this, there’s gonna be a lot of delays.

‘‘I think with Kyle, I think he’ll be placed on the [COVID] list. But . . . I would just caution everyone, there’s gonna be a lot of delays with these protocols.’’

The Cubs were one of eight teams who didn’t have a player test positive last season and were the only team who didn’t have a player test positive after their initial intake testing in 2020.

Given the latest news about Wick and Ryan, Hoyer hinted the Cubs will be adding a reliever in the coming days. The bullpen was the only area in which the Cubs didn’t make a major addition this offseason.

‘‘I think the bullpen is gonna have to be fluid and guys are gonna have to step up and step into different roles,’’ Hoyer said.