Craig Kimbrel turned some heads during the NLDS against the Giants in October and now that Billy Wagner has retired, the 22-year-old right-hander is ready to compete with Jonny Venters for the closer role during spring training.
Kimbrel told Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is confident he can handle closing duties in 2011, but is open to whatever role new Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez has in mind for him.
“There was never really a point last year where I didn’t think I could do it,” Kimbrel said. “I can’t go on the mound and think ‘I can’t do it,’ because then I’ll be in a losing situation.”
“I’m looking at it like it doesn’t matter what role I have, if I’m in the big leagues I’m happy,” he said. “But if I just go out there and focus more on pitching well, good things will happen.”
Kimbrel, a former 2007 third-round pick, dominated his way up the organizational ladder by posting a 1.85 ERA over 121 minor league relief appearances, averaging 14.4 K/9. He turned in a miniscule 0.40 ERA and 40 strikeouts over 20 2/3 innings with the Braves during the regular season in 2010. While he has electric stuff, he also averaged 5.7 BB/9 in the minors and issued 16 walks during his brief time with the Braves last season.
Carlos Marmol has proven that closers can be very successful without elite control, but it obviously takes a pretty special one in order to do it. This isn’t to say that Kimbrel can’t be that guy, but Venters is a pretty nice safety net.
The Rangers will not sign free agent reliever Seung-hwan Oh after all. Reports from MLB.com’s TR Sullivan indicate that negotiations were brought to a halt after a physical issue was found with the pitcher. While the specifics have yet to be released, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News says the issue was revealed on an MRI of the right-hander’s arm.
Oh was thought to be in talks with the Rangers last week, though a deal was never officially announced by the club. The 35-year-old righty is fresh off of a two-year run with the Cardinals, during which he posted a cumulative 39 saves, 2.85 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.2 SO/9 in 139 innings. He struggled with consistency in his sophomore season, however, and finished 2017 with a disappointing 4.10 ERA and 4.44 FIP in 62 appearances for the team.
While Oh hasn’t experienced any setbacks with his arm in the majors so far, he does have a history of prior injuries during his time in KBO. He sustained a shoulder injury in 2009 and underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in 2010. It’s possible that the Rangers saw an entirely different problem on the MRI, but clearly it was enough to give them strong reservations about inking the righty to a $2.75+ million deal. It’s still possible that another of Oh’s suitors will offer him a contract prior to Opening Day; the Giants were rumored to be interested in the veteran reliever, among other teams, though their recent acquisition of lefty reliever Tony Watson will likely take them out of the running now.