Craig Kimbrel

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made a huge decision by taking Craig Kimbrel’s closer’s role away with less than two weeks left in the regular season. On Friday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stated that Kimbrel, 34, will serve in a variety of positions in his bullpen and that the team will use a “closer by committee” strategy for the foreseeable future.

Roberts did not promise that the club will stick with this strategy into the playoffs, but with October quickly coming, it seems doubtful that they would make another strategy switch.

For Kimbrel, “the plan right now is to alter roles and just kind of get him in a position to pitch in different innings and different situations,” Roberts said. “He was willing to do whatever that would help the team win. I have a positive impression of it, and we’ll continue from there.”

A couple of weeks after longtime closer Kenley Jansen signed with the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers added Kimbrel in a one-for-one trade that sent outfielder AJ Pollock to the White Sox on April 1. However, Kimbrel has not looked like a dominant closer despite being an eight-time All-Star and one of the most experienced closers in baseball history.

His career numbers include a 4.14 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 27% K/9, and 5/27 blown saves across 57 appearances. The middle of August marked his first save in which he allowed only one run.

After losing Daniel Hudson for the year to an ACL injury, the Dodgers have seen only five relief appearances from Blake Treinen, who has been out since April due to continued right shoulder difficulties. The Dodgers’ projected back-end three included Hudson, Treinen, and Kimbrel.

Craig Kimbrel

Without either of them, Evan Phillips, who has a 1.24 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 58 innings, may get significant time in the ninth inning. Brusdar Graterol, Chris Martin, Tommy Kahnle, and the left-handed Alex Vesia might also play a role.

In October, Roberts was questioned about his opinion on closing decisions being made by a committee. Just because we’ve always done things a certain way doesn’t make it the right way, he explained. I’m not too worried about whether or not it fits into the norm since I’m not interested in that.

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Career

Kimbrel has allegedly agreed to a three-year, $43 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. After starting the year with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, he was promoted to the major league roster of the Chicago Cubs on June 27 and earned his first save of the season that night against the Atlanta Braves. Inflammation of his knee necessitated him going to IL on August 5, 2019.

The Cubs relieving staff has been struggling, therefore on August 18, 2019, the club activated him from the disabled list. As a closer, he played in 23 games and had a 6.53 ERA and an 0-4 record.

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A pandemic wiped out the 2020 baseball season, and Kimbrel finished 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA, 28 strikeouts, and 12 walks in 15 13 innings. Kimbrel moved up the all-time saves the list to 11th on May 26, 2021, after the Cubs’ 4-1 victory against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. To defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 24, 2021, Kimbrel, Zach Davies, Ryan Tepera, and Andrew Chafin teamed for a no-hitter.

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