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Notes: Kimbrel takes step; Bryant returns

@MLBastian
August 15, 2020

CHICAGO -- Craig Kimbrel pored over video of his Friday night outing against the Brewers and was able to get a more detailed look at his latest performance. It felt like a step forward for the closer, and the video and numbers only supported that initial takeaway. "The data backs

CHICAGO -- Craig Kimbrel pored over video of his Friday night outing against the Brewers and was able to get a more detailed look at his latest performance. It felt like a step forward for the closer, and the video and numbers only supported that initial takeaway.

"The data backs up what our eyes told us," Cubs manager David Ross said on Saturday morning. "Talking to him last night and again this morning, he felt that as well. He felt like he had real ride [on his fastball].

"And then watching the video and seeing the swings of the opposing players, I don't think he saw that last night as much as watching the video. And seeing how late a couple guys were on his fastball, which to me shows how deceptive it is."

Kimbrel threw 20 pitches, including 15 fastballs and five knuckle-curves in the four-batter showing in the ninth of Chicago's 4-3 loss to Milwaukee. The veteran closer issued one walk, but he struck out two batters on elevated heaters and got swings on his curve.

In his first four outings of this season, Kimbrel averaged 96.2 mph with a max speed of 97.5 mph on his fastball. On Friday night, his heater checked in at 96.6 mph on average and topped at 98 mph, per Statcast. In the previous four efforts, he had two swings on 30 curves. He had three out of five on Friday.

Kimbrel also generated six swinging strikes against the Brewers, following having just five whiffs within the 76 pitches thrown in the first four games of the season. In those appearances, Kimbrel allowed seven runs on six hits (two homers) with five walks, two strikeouts and one hit batsman in 2 2/3 innings.

"You saw the uptick -- the 97s," Ross said. "So, yeah, all the feedback has been positive. I think, again, it's another step in the right direction."

Chatwood on track for Monday
While right-hander Tyler Chatwood played catch on Saturday morning, Ross wandered out to left field to chat with the pitcher. The workout and the conversation went well, and now Chatwood is on target to start one of Monday's doubleheader games against the Cardinals.

"He feels good," Ross said. "Everything checked out. He feels great."

Chatwood was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday night due to mid-back tightness and was replaced by Alec Mills. Reliever Colin Rea made a spot start on Saturday as a result. Chicago has not announced its probable pitchers for the five-game, three-day series with St. Louis.

Worth noting
• Prior to Saturday's game, third baseman Kris Bryant (out of the lineup on Thursday and Friday due to left wrist and ring finger soreness) went through infield drills and took batting practice, gaining the go-ahead to return to the leadoff spot for the Cubs against the Brewers.

"K.B.'s in there. All good," Ross said. "Tested some things out this morning. Seems to be ready to go."

• When the Cubs set their Opening Day roster, veteran reliever Ryan Tepera was optioned to the team's alternate training site in South Bend, Ind. Through seven innings since returning to Chicago's bullpen, Tepera has a 3.86 ERA with 10 strikeouts, four hits allowed and one walk.

"Ryan Tepera [has] come back and proved me wrong. I was wrong on that," Ross said. "I went with another guy and stuff and Ryan Tepera has done nothing but proved himself and his worth here."

• Righty James Norwood (10-day injured list, right shoulder) is continuing to progress through a throwing program, but Ross noted that lefty Brad Wieck (10-day IL, right hamstring strain) had a setback that has pushed back his timetable. Wieck's hamstring is doing better, but he is now working through a left knee issue.

Quotable
"He's had some really good at-bats. You see sometimes when he's tried to shorten up, he's gotten some base hits the other way when he's not comfortable. I still feel like he wants to get going for himself. You see sometimes the big swings -- him wanting to get going a little bit and start to drive the baseball.

"Javy's one of those guys, every day he comes in, he affects the game in a positive way for me. Defensively, offensively, with his baserunning, just his attitude in general is pretty infectious around our team. So, yeah, I don't worry about the big boys that have the resumes. They're our horses. We ride them, and through the good and the bad." -- Ross, on Javier Báez's slow start at the plate

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.