Cubs place closer Craig Kimbrel on IL with knee injury; a look at who could step up in the bullpen

The Cubs have placed closer Craig Kimbrel on the injured list with right knee inflammation, the Cubs announced Monday. Kimbrel told reporters that he can still play catch and stay in rhythm (via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune) and that if this were the playoffs, he would pitch through it, so it doesn't sound like a serious matter. 

Kimbrel got off to a rocky start, but if we lop off his first three outings, he'd have a 2.70 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings and eight saves in nine chances. 

Pedro Strop served as the Cubs' closer when healthy, but right now he's on the injured list and he's been incredibly inconsistent this season. 

That means it's committee time. Among the Cubs who could be in line for high-leverage work without Kimbrel and Strop: 

  • Right-hander Brandon Kintzler has pitched to a 2.36 ERA and 0.92 WHIP this season and has been pretty reliably consistent. 
  • Left-hander Kyle Ryan has a 3.00 ERA and has been getting big outs all season in the middle and late innings.
  • Right-hander Rowan Wick has only pitched 13 innings, but he looks legit, sporting a 2.08 ERA and 15 strikeouts.
  • Right-hander Steve Cishek is always in the conversation, too. 

The bullpen was a big issue earlier in the season and there have been a few meltdowns, but they've been much better these last few weeks. 

Given that the four names above are pitching well, Strop will be back soon and Kimbrel seems to only need the minimum 10 days on the injured list, this isn't as much of a bad news move as it sounds on the surface. 

The Cubs entered Monday with a 1 1/2 game lead in the Central, shooting for their fifth straight playoff appearance. Their current run is already a franchise record. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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