Craig Kimbrel’s first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers has been marred by inconsistency, and it led to manager Dave Roberts removing him from the closer role last week.
Roberts spoke to the right-hander about his new role and told him he would be used in different situations. Kimbrel’s first test came in the series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals, and he promptly retired all three batters faced in the sixth inning.
Kimbrel struggled in his next appearance, however, walking three batters in a 4-3 walk-off loss to the San Diego Padres. He followed that with a scoreless appearance two nights later.
With less than a week remaining in the regular season, the veteran reliever is confident he can right the ship in time for the playoffs, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“I think so. I think I’ve got some good pitching to do in the next couple days to prove that. Actually, I don’t think I can. I know I can. I’ve just got to do it.”
Kimbrel has converted 22-of-27 save opportunities this season behind a 6-7 record, 4.02 ERA, 3.25 FIP and 1.36 WHIP in 59 appearances.
With Kimbrel no longer serving as the closer, the Dodgers are relying on a committee, with Evan Phillips, Chris Martin, Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol, Tommy Kahnle and potentially Blake Treinen among the options that could be asked to record the final three outs in the postseason.
Kimbrel confident he will be closer again
Although Kimbrel was removed from his role in the ninth inning, he does not believe his closing days are over. “It is what it is. I’m not chasing saves, I’m chasing wins. We have a lot of wins to get,” Kimbrel recently said.
“There’s been a lot of save opportunities all year long that I’ve gotten the opportunity to do. Right now, I think this is an opportunity for guys to step into some roles.
“Just like my opportunity came to close out games young in my career, I think when you get the opportunity to step into that role, you have to embrace it but want it at the same time. So we’re going to see a lot of that here in the next couple of games. I mean, I don’t think I’m done closing. But right now I have to get right and get back to it.”
Kimbrel is set to become a free agent after the 2022 season, but it remains to be seen if teams still view him as a closer.
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