Kimbrel to Gwinnett narrows field for final spots

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Craig Kimbrel will begin the season as a closer at Class AAA Gwinnett, but Braves manager Bobby Cox said the hard-throwing prospect could soon be with the big club.

“I think so,” Cox said. “If he gets it together. He’s a strikeout guy. He can come on and strike you out.”

Projected as a future closer, Kimbrel, 21, has allowed only three hits in seven scoreless appearances this spring, with 10 strikeouts in seven innings.

While he has issued six walks, Cox said the right-hander hasn’t been plagued with erratic control like he was at times during two minor league seasons.

“I don’t think [his command] has been bad at all,” Cox said. “In the bullpens he was always good. That’s where you get a good look at how guys repeat pitches, things like that….

“I haven’t looked at his stats, but for me, with just my eyes – I haven’t looked at stats in spring training – I like him.”

Cox talked to Kimbrel on Tuesday and told him how he’d be used at Gwinnett, including some two-inning stints to give him a better opportunity to work on sharpening all his pitches.

He has 159 strikeouts and 60 walks in 95-1/3 innings in the minors, but has pitched only 13-2/3 innings above Class A.

“Just needs to get out there and [pitch],” Cox said.

Kimbrel won the Phil Niekro Award as the top pitcher in the farm system in 2009, when he pitched for four Braves affiliates and had 18 saves, a 2.85 ERA and 103 strikeouts with 45 walks in 49 appearances.

Cox said Kimbrel and the other 35 Braves still on the camp roster would remain with the team for the final exhibition games Friday and Saturday against the Chicago White Sox at Turner Field.

The final roster cuts will be made in Atlanta to get the Braves’ roster to 25 before Monday’s season opener against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field.

Since veteran Scott Proctor is expected to spend two or three weeks at Gwinnett — he’s not quite 11 months into recovery from “Tommy John” elbow surgery — before he’s added to the 25-man roster, there are presumably three  competing for the final two bullpen spots: right-hander Jesse Chavez and lefties Jo-Jo Reyes and Jonny Venters.

Chavez is expected to get one of those jobs.

8 comments Add your comment

stew

March 30th, 2010
6:20 pm

stew

March 30th, 2010
6:21 pm

Still has to throw strikes.

Willy

March 30th, 2010
6:24 pm

The Braves have had a nice spring, but that’s like getting that first introductory “wink” from someone on an online dating service.

BravesfaninWis

March 30th, 2010
6:36 pm

According to MLBTR’s, the Mets have claimed Manny Acosta off waivers from the Braves. I didn’t even know the Braves waived Acosta, I thought they just sent him down to AAA. Good, now he will lose games for the Mets instead of the Braves.

Biff Pocoroba

March 30th, 2010
6:37 pm

I’m cautiously optimistic. Lots to be excited about. It will be fun to watch the development of some of the youngsters, particularly Hanson and Heyward. Even if they don’t win the division this year, I think they are headed in the right direction now, and will be competitive and fun to watch. Having been a Braves fan through the 70’s and 80’s. that’s good enough fo me right now :) . I remember sitting in the center field bleachers watching some pretty bad Braves teams in the late 70’s. $2.50 seats and $4.00 warm beers. Ahh, I miss old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium…….

Alaska Braves Fan

March 31st, 2010
3:09 am

Unless we get struck by several injuries – knock on wood – we’ll have the pitching. Look how KK compared with Sabathia today. Kawakami has a knack for rising to the occasion when he faces the big names. And the other four guys are looking extremely sharp. Add to that the fact the the Braves seem set to score runs at a much hotter pace than last year, and I think we’ll surprise just about everyone by the end of the year. But, just to show I’m not entirely naïve, I really do know it’s just spring training so far. Everyone has to produce when the lights come on.

daw

March 31st, 2010
12:27 pm

Things look good at nearly every level for the Braves. The farm is really stocked with great talent. Its a shame Bobby C is leaving with the table so full. He should stay since his health is good, but if he walks away it only shows he is a true class act.

ugaaccountant

March 31st, 2010
4:42 pm

Freeman + Kimbrell at AAA is a team worth watching.

Add your comment