Kimbrel further eases concerns after playing catch
Before getting overly concerned about the fact that a sore right shoulder prevented Craig Kimbrel from closing Monday night’s thrilling win in Philadelphia, remember some of you were also worried about him around this same time last year.
Or maybe more importantly, Kimbrel has already played catch today and given himself more reason to believe he will be available to pitch if rain does not prevent the Braves and Phillies from playing tonight’s scheduled game at Citizens Bank Park.
As Kimbrel worked a perfect inning against the Nationals during his sixth appearance of the 2013 season, his average fastball velocity (per BrooksBaseball.net) was 94.5 mph. This eyebrow-rising drop in velo was influenced by the fact that he had worked a perfect inning approximately 17 hours earlier.
After he rested two days following those back-to-back appearances, his average fastball velocity in his seventh appearance of the season was 99 mph.
All of this was provided to simply provide some context in the event that Kimbrel is indeed simply dealing the kind of normal shoulder soreness that can be healed with a couple days of rest. But until the Braves closer has a chance to prove he is not dealing with something that could possibly sideline him, there will be at least some level of concern, regardless of what Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said as he spoke to reporters after Monday’s game.
“Not worried at all,” Gonzalez said. “I’m talking to Craig and our trainers. I think it’s one of those things that every reliever goes through. [If we hadn't gone ahead in the ninth], you guys wouldn’t have even known it. So throughout the course of the season, there are guys that are banged up and they’re not the closer. If it’s not a save situation, nobody would even know, so I’m not concerned at all.”
While a reliever is seemingly destined to deal with some kind of soreness at some point during a season, some of you might have been more comforted had Kimbrel not revealed that his shoulder has occasionally bothered him dating back to Spring Training.
But with this being said, there have not necessarily been any glaring signs that Kimbrel has been dealing with any burdensome discomfort.
Yeah, he issued a walk and allowed a pair of two-out, run-producing singles after being assigned to clean Jordan Walden’s ninth-inning clutter during Wednesday’s win over the Mets. Dating back to the start of the 2012 season, he had entered just four other games in the middle of an inning with at least one runner on base.
But Kimbrel has been perfect in four of the five innings he has started this year. The only thing separating him from being 5-for-5 in this category was the one-out single he surrendered in the process of notching his fifth save on Saturday.
If you’re wondering about his arm strength, here is a look at his average fastball velocity through the first six games of the past three seasons (once again courtesy to the fine folks at brooksbaseball.net). Notice that Kimbrel’s velo thus far has been a tick better than it was at the same point of his historic 2012 season.
2012: 96.7 mph
2013: 97.05 mph
2014: 96.98 mph