Kyle Blanks is “a long shot” to be ready for Opening Day

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Kyle Blanks showed immense potential as a 22-year-old rookie in 2009, smacking 10 homers with an .868 OPS in 54 games after joining the Padres in mid-June, but he hit just .157 through 33 games last year before undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery shortly after the All-Star break.

Blanks dropped 10 pounds from his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame during the offseason and arrived at Padres camp a week early, but told Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune that he’s highly unlikely to be ready for Opening Day:

Right now, it’s health and rehab first and playing second. Realistically, it’s a long shot that I would be ready to play on Opening Day and I’m not even thinking about that. I’m at the point of my rehab that I’m hitting three days a week and playing catch three days a week. This type of rehab is a process that you can’t speed up.

Once he’s healthy the Padres figure to work Blanks back into the lineup slowly, perhaps giving him starts in place of Brad Hawpe or Will Venable against left-handed pitching. He remains a big part of the long-term lineup, but counting on Blanks making a major contribution in the first half would probably be optimistic.

Cubs to activate Craig Kimbrel on Thursday

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The Cubs will activate reliever Craig Kimbrel ahead of Thursday afternoon’s game against the Braves, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic reports.

Kimbrel, 31, ended a seven-month stint in free agency, agreeing to a three-year, $43 million contract with the Cubs earlier this month. He has made four minor league appearances, allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings.

With an aggregate 3.96 ERA entering Wednesday, the Cubs’ bullpen has been among the better bullpens in the league. Adding Kimbrel, one of the greatest closers of all-time, certainly can’t hurt and will give them some stability in save situations.