Dave Roberts: Craig Kimbrel Remains Dodgers Closer, But Needs To Be ‘More Effective’

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies, 5-4, to extend their winning streak not without some late-inning drama that involved Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning.

Leading 5-2, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called on Kimbrel to convert his 18th save of the season. Kimbrel retired the first batter he faced before allowing a single, which was followed by a strikeout.

From there, Kimbrel allowed another single and a walk to load the bases. Randal Grichuk hit a two-run single that cut the Dodgers’ lead to one and left runners on first and second base.

The Dodgers then recorded the final out when Trayce Thompson made a running catch, but the shaky outing was a continuation of Kimbrel’s season. After the game, Roberts acknowledged the need for Kimbrel to improve but continued to back him as the Dodgers’ closer, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:

“There’s one outing where he’s efficient, commanding the baseball, getting the swing and miss. The next one we’re up near 30 (pitches) to get three outs,” Roberts said after Kimbrel needed 29 (and Thompson’s help) to get through the ninth against the Rockies.

“He’s our closer. But certainly performance matters – especially at the back end of the game. No one knows that more than Craig. … He’s got to continue to work on some things to be more efficient and be more effective. That’s just facts.”

This is the second time Roberts has publicly voiced support of Kimbrel as the team’s closer, but the leash is likely getting shorter with each poor outing.

The 34-year-old has shown some flashes of being the dominant reliever he has been throughout his career, but it has generally been followed by a poor appearance his next time out.

“I think if I had to pick something, I think it’s getting consistency of the breaking ball,” Roberts said earlier this month about his closer’s struggles.

“I think the shape is different on almost every throw, and there’s a lot of non-competitive misses with the breaking ball that will get your pitch count up and obviously get you into some counts that you don’t want to be in.

“So I think that’s something that we got to kind of work together to harness and figure out some consistency there.”

Why has Craig Kimbrel struggled?

The Dodgers aren’t sure what’s causing the issues, whether it’s a mechanical adjustment Kimbrel needs to make or another factor, but Roberts previously noted “our guys are on it right now trying to figure out.”

Kimbrel has pitched to a 4.37 ERA across 35 innings while saving 18 games in 21 chances, striking out 50 and walking 15.

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