Braves closer Craig Kimbrel surpassed the major league first-half rookie record for saves, and before much longer he could own more-significant marks.
The 23-year-old Alabama native pitched a perfect ninth inning Thursday against Colorado for his 27th save, breaking the rookie first-half mark of 26 set by Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon before the 2006 All-Star break.
“It’s pretty cool to say I have the record,” Kimbrel said. “But I wouldn’t have had it if it weren’t for the team. We have a winning baseball team, and if we didn’t go out there and win as many times as we do, I wouldn’t have a chance to get the saves. It’s just as much [an award] for them as it is for me.
“I thank the team and thank Fredi [Gonzalez] for letting me have the opportunity to do it.”
Kimbrel needs 10 saves to set a new National League single-season rookie record, and 14 for the major league record for rookies. Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, a former Braves prospect, set the major league rookie record with 40 saves in 2010, and Todd Worrell holds the NL rookie record with 36 saves for St. Louis in 1986.
Kimbrel took over sole possession of the majors lead in saves, pending the outcome of San Diego’s late game Thursday (Padres closer Heath Bell had 26 saves). Kimbrel also leads major league relievers in strikeouts with 70, including 21 strikeouts with only one walk in his past 12 innnings.
He has allowed just three hits in 13 scoreless innings over his past 13 appearances and converted all nine save opportunities in his past 10 games.