Orioles' Kimbrel on his struggles: 'I've got to be better' - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Kimbrel on his struggles: ‘I’ve got to be better’

Photo Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

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BALTIMORE—Craig Kimbrel is still the Orioles’ closer. Despite not converting four of his last five save opportunities, Kimbrel is still manager Brandon Hyde’s choice for crucial spots in the ninth inning.

“He got off to a great start where he had a heck of an April for us,” Hyde said. “He’s working with our guys on some mechanical things as well as just getting back to being that guy that he was in April for us. He was so big for us.”

Kimbrel discussed his struggles earlier on Friday.

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“To make it simple, I’ve got to be better,” Kimbrel said. “I think four of my last five outings have been pretty bad. I’ve just got to be better than that. Whatever they are, walking guys, throwing pitches where I shouldn’t, giving guys opportunities, not capitalizing on opportunities and at-bats, things like that.

“It could be laying in the breaking ball more, being less predictable, you name it. Whatever it is, we need to figure it out and be better. I fully expect to. I don’t go out there thinking I’m going to give up any runs. I go out there expecting I’m going to do my job each and every time. Unfortunately, the last couple of times that hasn’t been the case.”

Last Saturday night, Kimbrel was removed during the ninth inning after three of the four batters he faced reached in Cincinnati. On Wednesday against Washington, Kimbrel recorded the first two outs of the ninth but didn’t retire any of the next three batters. Yennier Cano saved the first game, and the Orioles defeated the Nationals, 7-6, in 12 innings in the other.

“I plan on turning it around and getting on a good roll, just like I always do,” Kimbrel said.

On April 26th and 28th, Kimbrel didn’t convert save chances against Oakland, games the Orioles lost. In the April 28th game, Kimbrel left the game with upper back soreness, but he insists he’s fine physically.

“I’m not going to sit here and talk about what I was doing wrong. It was wrong,” Kimbrel said. “I gave up runs. I walked guys. I asked our bullpen to come in and get us out of tight situations, which they did a couple of those times, and they really saved the games. I set us up to lose on those days.

“Credit to them to be able to have my back on those days, to come in and help the team win on those days where I didn’t do my job. Just to make it simple, I’ve got to do better, and that’s really it.”

In his long and storied major league career, where he’s amassed 425 saves, tied with Boston’s Kenley Jansen for sixth place on the all-time saves list, Kimbrel has had other trying times.

“I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my career,” Kimbrel said. “I’ve had some stretches way worse than this. In my mind, it’s I’ve got to put my foot down and make pitches and make good things come. I truly believe that.”

During his rough stretch, Kimbrel’s earned-run average has ballooned from 0.82 to 4.73. He said his confidence remains strong.

“I think so, but at the same time, I still have to do it,” he said. “I can’t relax too much. I still have to stay focused and do everything I need to do to make it happen.”

Hyde’s expression of confidence in his closer is appreciated.

“At this point, with the relationship we’ve had and the conversations we’ve had, if that changes in his mind, I think he’s going to tell me before he tells y’all, so 100 percent I expect to get the ball. Until that changes, until I pitch my way out of that, I expect to go out there and close out the games every opportunity we get.”

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