Craig Kimbrel is enduring an uncharacteristic rough patch. Fortunately, his boss has a plan to break him out of his funk.
The Boston Red Sox closer didn’t pitch Wednesday night after allowing a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s eventual extra-innings win over the Toronto Blue Jays. The outing marked the fourth time in five appearances that Kimbrel had allowed at least one run and his second blown save in his last three chances.
“I brought this up to him last year as well, you just can’t get into situations, especially against lefties, where the strike zone map starts to separate,” LeVangie told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “The colors start to stand out. Good hitters hunt certain locations for a type of pitch and if the color code starts to get really separated then they can have better opportunities to have success.”
Essentially, LeVangie believes Kimbrel has become too predictable locating his pitches. Of course, there’s a simple solution to that problem: Throw a more diverse selection of pitches in more diverse locations.
“I talked to him about using both pitches to both sides of the plate,” LeVangie said. “Curveball backdoor. Using the fastball in a little bit more, not that I love throwing it in, but just a little bit more to help get more swings on the breaking ball to them. And some backdoor curveballs for strikes earlier in the count … (so they don’t) just sit on one speed and protect that part of the strike zone.
“We call it crisscrossing both sides of the plate. Once he starts doing that a little bit more the colors will start to intertwine a little bit.”
Sox manager Alex Cora noted Tuesday that hitters seem to be picking up Kimbrel’s curveball better lately, “recognizing the pitch right away” and not chasing it out of the strike zone. That’s likely a product of the All-Star closer not varying his pitches enough, allowing hitters to “sit” on the pitches they want to hit.
Fortunately, Kimbrel has the talent and the resources to work out of his slump. And it’s not like his skid has affected the team: Boston has won the last 31 games in which Kimbrel has pitched.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images