Orioles' Kimbrel savors Fenway return - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Kimbrel savors Fenway return

Photo Credit: David Butler II USA TODAY Sports


BOSTON—Midway through the Orioles-Red Sox game on Wednesday night, the Fenway Park scoreboard showed a tribute to Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel.

It was the first time the 35-year-old Kimbrel had been back to Fenway since he pitched for Boston’s 2018 World Series winning team. He closed out the ninth inning for his 419th save, eighth on the all-time list.

“That was cool. That brought back a lot of feelings,” Kimbrel said. “I’ve got a lot of memories here, always will. For them to do that, that was pretty cool.”

Kimbrel pitched three seasons for Boston, from 2016-2018, recording 108 saves. He’s had two so far for the Orioles.

He comes back to Boston each year with his daughter for medical checkups, but it was his first time in the ballpark.

“You would have thought I would have been back by now,” Kimbrel said. “It was good, especially after the video last night, we came back to win the game [7-5]. That made it an even bigger plus.

“Those memories will always be with me, but when it was time to warm up, it was, make more good memories, just in a different uniform.”

Kimbrel began his career with Atlanta and had 186 saves from 2010-2015. He’s also pitched for San Diego, the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia. He doesn’t identify with one specific team.

“I’ve made great memories every stop I’ve had so far,” Kimbrel said. “Hopefully, I can continue to do that.”

Kimbrel is four saves away from Billy Wagner, a former teammate in Atlanta, who had 422 for seventh place. Boston closer Kenley Jansen is sixth with 423.

“It’s kind of crazy to think about,” he said. “I’m approaching a number with a guy that I looked up to and played with in my rookie year. To be able to sit here and say that, it’s crazy how time goes by, it flies by, especially in this game.”

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has watched some excellent closers over the years, and he ranks Kimbrel high on his list.

“He’s got to be up there,” Hyde said. He remembers watching Kimbrel early in his career with the Braves.

“That was electric,” Hyde said. “We had no idea who he was. This little right-hander coming up throwing bullets at 100. I’ve seen him for quite a while.

“In his prime, he was as dominating as a lot of people have been. He just knows what he’s doing on the mound late in the game. The pulse is low. He is really, really comfortable in that spot. It’s unbelievably impressive.”

Kimbrel still enjoys the competition.

“You’re so focused on the job at hand and just continuing, staying through the same process. There are aspects where it feels like it’s been a while,” he said. “Still to be able to do it at this age and have guys remind me they’ve been watching me since elementary school, we laugh at it, but it’s a good feeling.”

There haven’t been any current Orioles who’ve told Kimbrel they’ve been watching him that long.

“Everybody’s been nice so far,” he joked.

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