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Prospect Amaya's big week; Kimbrel's progress

@JesseSanchezMLB
March 2, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- Miguel Amaya's first big league Spring Training is such a big deal back home in Panama that it has practically shut down his hometown. Amaya’s father, Max, is the mayor of Los Santos, the district where the Amayas live, and the entire family is in Arizona for

MESA, Ariz. -- Miguel Amaya's first big league Spring Training is such a big deal back home in Panama that it has practically shut down his hometown.

Amaya’s father, Max, is the mayor of Los Santos, the district where the Amayas live, and the entire family is in Arizona for a few days to watch him play.

“It feels so good to have my family here,” Miguel said in Spanish. “We have all worked very hard and sacrificed to get to this point.”

So far, Amaya has made four starts behind the plate in Cactus League play and has appeared in games as a pinch-hitter and designated hitter. He had two hits in his first 13 spring at-bats entering Monday’s 9-4 win over the Angels. He entered the game in the sixth inning and grounded out to shortstop. He struck out in the seventh.

“I feel like I’m learning more and more every day,” Amaya said. “The guys are helping me so much, and having a manager that knows the position helps, too. I am very happy to be here and want to take advantage of the situation.”

The Cubs signed Amaya, who finished the season as the Cubs' No. 2 prospect, out of Panama for $1 million in 2015 and he’s shown signs of progress through each level. Last season, he moved up to Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, where he hit .235 with 11 homers, 24 doubles, 57 RBIs, 50 runs and 54 walks in 99 games. He struck out 69 times and threw out 35% of would-be basestealers.

Amaya, who was added to the 40-man roster in November, is expected to start the season at Double-A Tennessee.

“His presence behind the plate is really clean and I like his setup,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He’s a leader back there. He’s got great hands for a catcher. He seems to be connecting with [Willson] Contreras and asking the right questions, yet still staying quiet as a rookie should.”

Amaya’s long-term future is to be determined. He remains on track to make his big league debut in a season or two. For now, the Cubs have an All-Star starting catcher in Contreras, who is under club control through 2022, with Victor Caratini as the backup.

“[Amaya's] found a nice balance,” Ross said. “I’ve been watching for a long time. He’s been a guy on the radar for a while.”

Kimbrel on track
Craig Kimbrel threw a bullpen session on Monday and is on track to make his Cactus League debut Wednesday against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark.

Kimbrel, who spent the winter focused on long toss and training to build arm strength, has been working on his own program to prepare for Opening Day and should still make seven or eight appearances during Cactus League play before the club breaks camp in three weeks. One of the goals is to improve his fastball velocity, which has dipped in each of the last two years.

MRI for Manny
Pitching prospect Manuel Rodríguez, who was removed from Sunday’s game against the Mariners with right biceps discomfort, is scheduled for an MRI on his sore arm. The club will have more information on his status Tuesday.

Rodríguez was injured after throwing a breaking ball during the sixth inning.

Worth noting
• Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks had another strong start Monday, striking out three in three scoreless innings. He has not allowed a run and has given up only one hit in five innings this spring.

“Today, I got some work in, actually attacking some hitters with a plan and then I got to work on a few things on my own,” Hendricks said. “It was a positive.”

• The Cubs agreed to 2020 contract terms with these 19 players on their 40-man roster: pitchers Adbert Alzolay, Dillon Maples, Trevor Megill, Tyson Miller, Alec Mills, James Norwood, Colin Rea, Rodríguez, Casey Sadler, Duane Underwood Jr., Rowan Wick, Justin Steele and Brad Wieck, along with catchers Amaya and Caratini ($592,000).

The list also includes infielders Robel García, Nico Hoerner and Zack Short, as well as outfielder Ian Happ ($624,000).

• Kyle Schwarber hit a bases-clearing double against the Angels that put the Cubs ahead, 4-2.

Up next
José Quintana will be on the mound Tuesday as the Cubs take on the Rockies at 2:10 p.m. CT at Salt River Fields. It will be Quintana's first start of the spring. Fans can watch the game live on MLB.TV.

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.