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Craig Kimbrel on schedule to join Cubs by end of June: ‘It’s not far off’

Craig Kimbrel will make his first appearance Tuesday for Triple-A Iowa with a strong possibility of joining the Cubs by the end of June.

“Everything has been on schedule so far,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday, one day after Kimbrel threw his second live batting-practice session at the Cubs’ minor-league complex in Mesa, Ariz. “The last part of the schedule, there’s some wiggle room there. It depends on how he feels. Everything is as planned right now.”

Kimbrel, a seven-time All-Star closer who agreed to terms with the Cubs on June 5, will make his first appearance against Sacramento. There’s a good chance Kimbrel will pitch five minor-league games, which could line him up to join the Cubs at the end of their three-game series against the Braves on June 24-27 or when they leave for Cincinnati after the 10-game homestand that starts Tuesday against the White Sox.

“He’s feeling great,” Maddon said. “The numbers are great coming out of his hand, so we’ll just make this next step and evaluate after that. It’s not far off, but you still have to be patient.”

Dialogue with Descalso

A decline at the plate hasn’t discouraged Maddon from eventually giving infielder Daniel Descalso more playing time

“This guy is an absolute veteran,” Maddon said. “I’ve talked to him and believe it.”

Since April 25, when he was batting .310, Descalso has only eight hits in 79 at-bats (.101), and his playing time at second has diminished since Addison Russell returned from a 40-game suspension and David Bote emerged.

Maddon stressed his faith in Descalso during a chat on the elevator at the team hotel.

“By the end of the year, you’re going to be important to us,” Maddon said he told Descalso. “And you’re going to feel that thing at the plate again. You’ll start hitting and contributing again. Just please stay solvent and know that I know also.

“This guy is different. He’s a throwback. He knows what’s going on. He can see it. He doesn’t have to be ameliorated. He doesn’t have to be patted on the back. You know he’s working. He knows the opportunity will show up, and he’ll be ready for it.

“We touch base every day. I believe by the end of the year, he’ll be pertinent to our success.”

Rotation roundup

The Cubs haven’t finalized their rotation for the Mets series, but all signs indicate Kyle Hendricks’ replacement — most likely Adbert Alzolay — will be promoted from Iowa to start Thursday night’s series opener.

Both Alzolay and Hendricks, who was placed on the 10-day injured list Saturday, last pitched Friday. With Cole Hamels and Jon Lester scheduled to pitch the two games against the White Sox on Tuesday and Wednesday, Alzolay would be a natural fit as Yu Darvish would get an extra day of rest after throwing 109 pitches Saturday.

mgonzales@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @MDGonzales

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