Although Craig Kimbrel has managed just one save on 11 chances, the closest Los Angeles Dodgers has yet to match the dominating force on that mound that he has been since his MLB debut in 2010.
This season, Kimbrel boasts a 4.80 ERA and his strikeout rate is down about 10% from his career mark, but he’s only come in 15 innings while appearing in 16 of the Dodgers’ 50 games. Manager Dave Roberts has acknowledged that part of the veteran’s struggles stem from his lack of use and the team have a plan to address that going forward.
“I think for a closer you’re always concerned about throwing him in save situations, and I think what’s happened is there’s been a few times where he’s been five or six days without pitching,” Roberts said.
“It’s just not advantageous when we have other guys who can take over, 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 streak, he’ll be the next day regardless of the situation.
“So I think it’s up to all of us to make sure he pitches regularly. If we can do that, I think the performance will kind of reflect that.
Roberts added that Kimbrel not having a normal spring training period contributed to his lack of early use and noted that the Dodgers were always trying to bolster him early in the season.
“Now you go into the season, and there’s five or six days that go by and he hasn’t hit the mound, it’s just not ideal,” Roberts said. “Again, it’s on us. He’s okay with that, we’ve acknowledged that, so now it’s up to us to put that plan into action.
While Kimbrel acknowledges that he needs to be used more, he’s also unwilling to offer that as an excuse for his poor outings, saying he still has to get the job done even if he’s not feeling his best.
“I think my last few outings are what they are,” Kimbrel said after making his first save of the season. “Tonight, even though I’m fighting and all that, I still have to go out there and do my job. I’m not going to be perfect every time.
“I’m not going to feel good every time I go there, but I still have to do my job even if I don’t feel good. Tonight was not one of those nights. I’ll show up tomorrow, ask for the ball and be ready to go.
Roberts also said Kimbrel is 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 isn’t worried about Kimbrel
Roberts certainly has a lot of experience dealing with a closer attempt to work through some inconsistencies, and as he often did with Kenley Jansen, he downplayed the concern for Kimbrel.
“I’m not worried, but I think there are some things we definitely need to clean up. Every outing there have been good breaking balls, good throws with the fastball, and there have been some that aren’t so good,” Roberts said.
“I know he relies on certain cues to have consistency in throwing. We just have to keep working on it.
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