It hasn’t been the greatest start of the year and start to a career in Boston for closer Craig Kimbrel.
He allowed a home run in the ninth inning in the home opener against the Orioles. He struggled in the eighth inning in the Patriots’ Day loss to the Blue Jays and most recently, he allowed a two-run home run in the ninth inning to tie the game Sunday against the Astros.
The Red Sox gave up a large package for the All-Star closer this offseason in the trade with the Padres as they gave up outfielder Manuel Margot, infielders Javier Guerra and Carlos Asuaje, as well as left-hander Logan Allen. A lot was expected of Kimbrel going into the year and this was not the type of start anyone was looking for, but looking at his career splits, this shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Kimbrel is a historically slow starter and the right-hander gets significantly better as each year goes on. For his career, he has an ERA of 2.88 in the month of April, the highest of any month during the season. It goes down to 2.76 in May, 1.29 in June, 0.84 in July, 0.76 in August before going up to 1.55 in September and October. Bottom line is, the poor start from Kimbrel is not a surprise going off his past.
As hard-throwing as he is, the right-hander may need some time to get into a rhythm to be able to repeat his delivery to get the best results. Also, with how reliant he is on his fastball, he may not like pitching in the cold weather.
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Kimbrel has at least 39 saves in five straight seasons, so he knows what it takes to be successful. He also has had ERA’s below 2.00 in three of his last four seasons.
"In this game, there's going to be times where you fail," Kimbrel said to reporters earlier this week in Atlanta. "You have to understand that. Obviously you want to think about why you failed, but going out the next day, you don't want that to weigh on you or to put extra pressure on yourself to do better. You've just got to go out there and do what you can do."
The Red Sox will be getting set-up man Carson Smith back in the next week or so, which will get the bullpen back to full strength and the Red Sox can only hope his return also boosts Kimbrel’s performance because the team desperately needs him pitching well.
Otherwise, the team could be in for another long summer.