Craig Kimbrel is on the move for the second time in seven months. This time, the All-Star closer is entering a whole different environment.
Kimbrel, who was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the San Diego Padres on April 5, joined the Boston Red Sox on Friday in a five-player deal that netted the Friars four minor leaguers. The 27-year-old will supplant Koji Uehara as the Red Sox’s closer and assume all of the pressure that comes with pitching the ninth inning in Boston. It’s an opportunity Kimbrel’s looking forward to.
“I’m excited,” Kimbrel said Friday night during a conference call. “With the history and the fans in Boston, the atmosphere is always awesome every time I’ve been there. You can feel the history and everything behind it there. To be able to put the uniform on and play in front of those fans, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Kimbrel is used to high-stress situations, having been a closer for five seasons (four with Atlanta and one with San Diego). It’s hard to imagine him folding like a lawn chair just because he’s now pitching in a big market, but going from Atlanta to San Diego to Boston is an interesting journey, nevertheless. Even simply transitioning from the National League to the American League can prove difficult for some.
“Moving to the American League, I’m excited,” said Kimbrel, who leads all major league relievers with 224 saves since the beginning of 2011. “It’s a league of big bats, and as a pitcher, you want to have that opportunity to be able to face those big bats. It’s a challenge, and I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s rare to see a player traded twice in seven months, let alone one of Kimbrel’s caliber. He earned NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 and has finished among the top nine in NL Cy Young voting four times. His 90.7 save percentage ranks second in MLB history among relievers with at least 200 save chances.
Yet, here we are with Kimbrel again changing uniforms. And you know what? He’s cool with it.
“It’s part of the game. I think the more we look at the game, players are moving around a lot more. I think a lot of the players have an understanding as well,” Kimbrel said. “From my view, especially being out of the bullpen, it’s something that I wouldn’t say guys get used to. But it’s something that’s become more common over the last few years.”
Kimbrel is under contract for the next two seasons at $24 million. The Red Sox also have a $13 million team option on the pitcher for 2018. If all goes well, Kimbrel will be around for the duration of the deal.
And he will have proven he can thrive in both the NL and AL.
Thumbnail photo via Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via San Diego Padres closer Craig Kimbrel
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