Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel talks about the 8th inning
Alex Cora and Craig Kimbrel have discussed using him in the 8th inning more often going forward. Is this good for the Red Sox?
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora recently talked with closer Craig Kimbrel about having him come into the game during the 8th inning more often. In a vacuum this is a good thing. He’s the best reliever on the team and they have had some trouble finding a consistently dominant arm for the 8th. Seems like a no brainer, eh?
Let’s take a look at how he has performed outside of the 9th inning. This season he has 5 appearances in the 8th compiling 5 IP. His ERA? 9.00. That’s compared to a 1.31 in the 9th, and a 2.08 in extra innings. Last season he looked better, throwing 2.2 IP and not allowing a run. In 2016 it was a 3.00 in 3 IP. Looking at his career, his ERA in the 8th is almost identical to the 9th; 1.80 to 1.79. While he has struggled in non-save situations, relatively speaking at least, he hasn’t had much trouble coming in during the 8th throughout his career.
So what’s the plan?
The story linked above comes on the heels of a report that Cora asked former colleague with the Houston Astros A.J. Hinch to stay away from Craig Kimbrel during the All Star game if possible. Kimbrel had pitched in four of the previous five days. Cora has been careful with his closer so far this season. He’s called on him just 12 times on back to back days. Kimbrel has gotten at least 2 days of rest 21 times. And he has come into a clean inning 36 times. So it’s no surprise that he asked Hinch to be cautious. Over the break Cora and Kimbrel decided to sit down and talk about his usage outside of the 9th inning down the stretch.
Their conversation was detailed in the link above, but the choice quote from Kimbrel appears to be:
"“We had that conversation, but I think we both look at the game and understand how pitchers can make it through an entire season. Especially out of the bullpen,” Kimbrel said. “If I was always coming in the eighth inning in April, May, June and July, doing it all year long, it would be a long year. I think what we’ve been able to do is do it here and there and as the season progresses those opportunities will start to increase. We’ve seen over the last two weeks I’ve come in the eighth inning a lot more.”"
So expect to see him running out to the mound in close and late situations that happen to not being in the 9th inning going forward. He’s handled those opportunities well and the reluctance to use him that way in the first half is apparently part of a plan to make him available for this kind of usage when those moments leave less margin for error.
Next: Catching up with former Red Sox pitcher Brett Saberhagen
Are you happy to read that Kimbrel will be taking some outs off of the plates of Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes? Does this impact your desire for a bullpen addition before the deadline? Let us know in the comments!
(Stats current as of the morning of 7/20/18)