Although Craig Kimbrel has only blown one save in 11 chances, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer is yet to match the dominant force on that mound that he has been since making his MLB debut in 2010.
This season, Kimbrel owns a 4.80 ERA and his strikeout rate is down around 10% from his career mark, but it has only come in 15 innings while appearing in 16 of the Dodgers’ 50 games. Manager Dave Roberts acknowledged part of the veteran’s struggles has come from his lack of usage and the team has a plan to fix that moving forward.
“I think for a closer, you’re always mindful of just pitching him in save situations, and I think what’s happened is there’s been a few times where he’s gone five or six days without pitching,” Roberts said.
“It’s just not beneficial when we have other guys that can pick up the slack, so it’s on me. And I talked to him. We’re not going to go more than three days without pitching him. If he doesn’t pitch for a series, he’ll be in the next day regardless of the situation.
“So I think it’s on all of us to make sure he pitches consistently. If we can do that, I think the performance will kind of mirror that.”
Roberts added Kimbrel not having a normal Spring Training period contributed to his lack of early usage and noted the Dodgers were still trying to build him up at the start of the season.
“Now you get into the season, and there’s five or six days that go by and he hasn’t touched the mound, it’s just not ideal,” Roberts said. “Again, that’s on us. He agrees with it, we’ve acknowledged it, so now it’s up to us to put that plan in action.”
While Kimbrel agrees he needs to be utilized more, he also doesn’t want to offer that as an excuse for his poor outings, saying he still needs to get the job done even when he doesn’t feel at his best.
“I think my last couple outings are what they are,” Kimbrel said after blowing his first save of the season. “Tonight, even if I am battling and stuff, I’ve still got to go out there and do my job. I’m not going to be perfect every time.
“I’m not going to feel great every time I go out there, but I’ve still got to do my job even if I don’t feel great. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights. I’ll show up tomorrow, ask for the ball, and be ready to go.”
Roberts also said Kimbrel was unavailable for their series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but added he will definitely pitch against the New York Mets on Thursday or Friday.
Roberts not concerned about Kimbrel
Roberts certainly has plenty of experience in managing a closer attempting to push through some inconsistencies, and like he often did with Kenley Jansen, he downplayed being worried about Kimbrel.
“I’m not concerned, but I do think there’s some things we’ve certainly got to clean up. In every outing there’s been some good breaking balls, some good throws with the fastball, and there’s been some ones that are not so good,” Roberts said.
“There’s some cues that I know he leans on to have the consistency of the throw. We’ve just got to keep working on it.”
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