Craig Kimbrel is only 22. He’s about to get a shot at taking over the Braves closer job this spring, with the retirement of Billy Wagner. He has a lot on his mind.
But at home in Huntsville, Ala. on Tuesday afternoon, as he drove from doing some deer hunting to throwing for the first time this winter, Kimbrel sounded like the kind of person who could handle it.
When asked at what point last year he realized he could do the major league job, here’s what he said:
“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.”
He wasn’t in too many of those. Kimbrel and his 96, 97 mph fastball allowed only one earned run in 20 2/3 innings over four major league stints last season, going 4-0 with an 0.44 ERA. This was on top of going 3-2 with a 1.62 ERA and 23 saves for Triple-A Gwinnett.
When Wagner went down with an oblique injury during the Division