On Friday, the Chicago Cubs officially announced the signing of closer Craig Kimbrel. The news of his highly anticipated signing was first reported on Wednesday, with Kimbrel signing a three-year contract worth a reported $43 million. Kimbrel will be with the Cubs through 2021, and his deal includes a vesting-or-club option for the ’22 season.

During Friday’s introductory press conference at Wrigley Field, Cubs president Theo Epstein shared the specific plan for Kimbrel’s return to MLB action:

“First step is going to throw a bullpen tomorrow, and then head out to [the Cubs’ complex] in Mesa, Ariz. and have a condensed spring training. We’ll throw a couple bullpens, face live hitters and we’ll get a gauge on where he’s at from there. We’ll listen to Craig and how he’s feeling. At some point, he’ll make a rehab assignment [at Triple-A Iowa]. We’re not going to rush it. It’s going to tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we’re trying to plan this thing the right way so he can be in a position to succeed not just immediately but all the way through October. That’s going to be our guiding principal as we go.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters on Thursday that he thought Kimbrel might be ready to pitch in about three weeks.

“I would imagine in the position that’s he’s been in, he had some kind of a strategy of program mapped out,” Maddon said. “The first thing you do is find out and then set up program. You think about a three-week window, normally it sounds right. Think about relief pitchers in spring training. Conventionally it would be like that kind of a window. But you’ve got to talk to the guy first and see what he’s been doing.”

Kimbrel told reporters that he feels great physically.

“I’m healthy, I feel great,” Kimbrel said. “I’m ready to get out there and face hitters. I’m far enough in my career that I can manage my body. So I’m just going to do that, see how it plays out and get back here hopefully on the timeline that we’ve set.”

Kimbrel became a free agent after helping the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series, but he didn’t garner any serious interest until after the MLB Draft began, since any interested team would no longer have to give up a draft pick compensation.

The Cubs are 34-27 and hold a half-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central after Friday’s 3-1 win against the Cardinals.

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