Craig Kimbrel earns save in Cubs debut vs. Braves

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Closer Craig Kimbrel made his Cubs debut on Thursday afternoon as manager Joe Maddon called upon him to protect a 9-7 lead in the ninth inning against the Braves. Kimbrel struck out Brian McCann looking and induced a ground out from Johan Camargo for two quick outs. After Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled, Kimbrel walked Dansby Swanson to put the tying run on base. Kimbrel saw his way out of trouble when Freddie Freeman grounded out to Anthony Rizzo down the first base line. Kimbrel was slow to cover the first base bag, so Rizzo had to dive to touch the base before Freeman.

The Cubs and Kimbrel agreed to a three-year, $43 million contract earlier this month. No one bit on Kimbrel as a free agent during the offseason, purportedly due to his struggles during the 2018 postseason with the Red Sox as well as his age and slightly declining velocity. Kimbrel’s first pitch on Thursday registered at 97.6 MPH, according to Statcast. He averaged 96.5 MPH on his fastball overall against the Braves today. That number should rise as he gets some more games under his belt.

Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season

Kopech has opted out
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Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season. The White Sox starter informed the team of his decision today, and the team issued a press release to that affect a few minutes ago.

The statement from general manager Rick Hahn. said “we recognize that reaching this decision is incredibly difficult for any competitive athlete, and our organization is understanding and supportive. We will work with Michael to assure his development continues throughout 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our clubhouse for the 2021 season.”

Kopech, 24, has only four big league starts under his belt, all coming in late August and early September of 2018, but after a strong spring training he was likely to make Chicago’s rotation at some point in the 2020 season after sitting out all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery. Kopech was among the players sent to Chicago from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade back in December 2016. Others involved in the deal included Yoán Moncada, Victor Diaz, and Luis Alexander Basabe.

Now, however, Kopech has opted out.