New Red Sox manager Alex Cora said on Tuesday that he will consider using closer Craig Kimbrel in the eighth inning if a high-leverage situation presents itself, ESPN’s Scott Lauber reports.
Kimbrel, 29, pitched before the ninth inning just six times in 67 appearances last season and five times in 57 appearances in 2016, so this would mark a significant shift in his usage. We’ve seen, particularly in the last two postseasons, an evolution in bullpen usage which has included using closers in high-leverage situations before the ninth inning.
This past season, Kimbrel saved 35 games with a 1.43 ERA and a 126/14 K/BB ratio in 69 innings. It seems pretty smart to utilize that skill set in more important situations than absent-mindedly always using him in the ninth inning.
If it were up to him, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson would finish the remainder of his career in Toronto. In fact, he’d be “ticked pink” if the club decided to sign him to a long-term deal. Whether the Blue Jays share that sentiment is still unclear, as Donaldson said Saturday that the team has yet to engage his agent in extension talks.
“I’ve said that I wanted to be here,” he told MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm. “That’s pretty much all I can say. I’m not the one who makes the decisions, nor would I try to put them in the position to do that. Like I said, I believe the situation will become more fluid when the time is right.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean an extension is out of the question. The Blue Jays reached an unprecedented one-year, $23 million agreement with the three-time All-Star in arbitration, and have been reticent to field trade offers despite continued interest from the Cardinals this winter.
Donaldson, 32, is poised to enter his eighth season in the majors and fourth with the Blue Jays. In 2017, he batted .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and a .944 OPS in 496 plate appearances, ranking sixth among all major league third baseman with 5.0 fWAR. He’s scheduled to enter free agency following the 2018 season.