Ryan Howard, Chase Utley take live batting practice

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Ryan Howard and Chase Utley continue to inch their way back to playing shape. Yesterday Utley took batting practice and then some grounders.  According to the report by Bob Brookover, however, the infield practice was limited and, given that playing second is what gives his knee the most trouble, there’s a lot of reason for tempering optimism.

Howard, however, played in what the Phillies call a simulated game on Wednesday and, between that and the other workouts he’s been doing, seems like he’s poised for a rehab assignment soon.

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.