When the Los Angeles Dodgers were unable to re-sign Kenley Jansen in free agency, they filled the closer role by acquiring the only active pitcher with more saves in Craig Kimbrel through a trade with the Chicago White Sox.
However, Kimbrel’s first season with the Dodgers has been marred by inconsistency, and it led to manager Dave Roberts removing the right-hander from his role with less than two weeks until the playoffs begin.
“I’m looking at it as an opportunity to get right,” Kimbrel said of the demotion from Dodgers closer. “At this point, I think I’ve got something to go out there and prove. Show what I can still do, and I think this kind of frees it up to get in a new opportunity to make it happen.
“I’ll be the first one to say I’m not very happy with a lot of my performances up to this point. But I’m also the one to tell you that can change and it can get better. So I’m just focusing on that, making my pitches and doing what I can to get to the point where I can be effective every single time I get out there.”
Kimbrel put together an encouraging two-week stretch from Augustin into September during which he did not allow a hit over eight consecutive appearances. It prompted the 34-year-old to keep with “Let It Go” performed by Idina Menzel for Disney’s “Frozen” as his entrance song.
The hitless stretch was snapped when Kimbrel allowed a walk-off home run to Sergio Alcántara after entering with a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 10th inning.
A scoreless appearance followed, but then Kimbrel allowed a run in back-to-back appearances three days apart. The was capped off by Kimbrel giving up a home run to Christian Walker that put the Arizona Diamondbacks ahead in what eventually was a walk-off win for the Dodgers.
That appearance, which also included a hit batter and walk, prompted Roberts to remove Kimbrel as Dodgers closer.
“Consistency and missing with pitches in areas you can’t miss,” Kimbrel said of his inability to find consistency this year. “Putting guys on, throwing wild pitches, things that I’ve talked about all year long, I call them beating myself because the guy in the box isn’t doing anything.
“He’s standing there and I’m walking him or throwing wild pitches. Those things have to go away. Those things can’t happen in the playoffs.
“Just got to get to a point where those don’t happen. I think a lot of that is not yanking my curveball and throwing it over the plate. Not hanging it, but throwing it over the plate. Just get out there, do it, get everybody happy and let’s get into this playoffs rolling right.”
Craig Kimbrel confident in non-save situations
Despite struggling last season after getting traded to the Chicago White Sox and not being utilized as the closer, and again with in non-save situations with the Dodgers, he doesn’t believe that trend will continue.
“I’ve pitched other than the ninth inning. I think there was a time in my career where it was different and I had a hard time handling it,” Kimbrel said.
“But over the last couple years, I’ve lost my job and had to pitch the seventh or eighth inning. I was traded last year and was asked to go in the seventh or eighth inning. I think there’s been times where I’ve been successful at it, and times I haven’t.
“I’m looking at this as an opportunity to get right and be successful at it. Going into the playoffs, there’s a lot of big innings and they’re not always in the ninth. I want to open myself up to say I can go in there and get big outs whenever that is. I’m viewing this as an opportunity to get better at it and to do it.”
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