Roberts removes Kimbrel from closer role

Dodgers will go with closer by committee for remainder of regular season

September 24th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Before Friday’s 11-0 loss to the Cardinals, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced that will not be the team’s closer for at least the remainder of the regular season. The Dodgers will go with a closer by committee the rest of the way. 

“I talked to him today and right now, the plan is to change roles and just kind of get him in position to pitch in different innings and different situations,” Roberts said. “He was very open to doing whatever was best for the ballclub. I feel good about it.”

When the Dodgers acquired Kimbrel from the White Sox in exchange for outfielder AJ Pollock in April, they hoped the veteran right-hander would solidify the ninth inning, an area of need once longtime closer Kenley Jansen signed with the Braves. 

At the time of the trade, general manager Brandon Gomes argued Kimbrel’s overall stuff was still good enough to close games, despite him posting a 5.09 ERA after joining the White Sox last season. That optimism, however, never resulted in success on the field. 

Kimbrel has struggled to find consistency all season. He hasn’t been able to throw strikes at a consistent clip and isn’t missing as many bats as he has in the past. Kimbrel recorded nine consecutive scoreless outings, but has allowed at least one earned run in three of his last four appearances.

On Thursday, he hit the leadoff batter with a breaking ball and later gave up a go-ahead homer to Christian Walker. That outing forced Roberts to re-think the closer role. The decision was made shortly after. When asked to comment, Kimbrel opted to speak at a later time.

“He knows that there’s more in there, there’s more consistency and just the openness to do what’s best,” Roberts said. “My job is to find the best lanes for him and he has no worries in the routines and something he’s always done. He looks at it more as a challenge and that’s the way we would expect.”

After posting a 0.49 ERA as the Cubs’ closer in 2021, Kimbrel struggled as a setup man for the White Sox. In order for Kimbrel to be in the postseason roster, the right-hander might have to show he’s capable of handling a different role. 

“I can’t predict the future,” Roberts said. “All I know is that at this moment in time, he’s ready to embrace whatever role we have for him and time will tell.” 

On Friday, Kimbrel tossed a clean sixth inning, an encouraging sign for the Dodgers. 

With Kimbrel out of the ninth inning, the Dodgers will now look to find which relievers can handle the pressure that comes with closing out a Major League game. 

Evan Phillips has been the Dodgers’ best reliever this season, but he might be too valuable in his current role: Putting out fires in high-leverage situations. Brusdar Graterol returned from the injured list on Thursday and looked sharp, tossing a scoreless inning. He said in Spring Training he would welcome becoming the team’s closer.

Blake Treinen suffered another setback following a sim game on Tuesday, making it unlikely he’ll be a high-leverage reliever down the stretch. Yency Almonte, who was a bright spot before going down with injury, started a rehab assignment, and the Dodgers hope to have him back soon. Then there’s Chris Martin and Tommy Kahnle.

“It’s kind of the whole mindset of just because you’ve always done something one way, doesn’t make it right,” Roberts said, when asked about not having a set closer heading into October. “It might not be traditional, but I’m not too concerned about that.” 

The Dodgers don’t have a shortage of options, but they have some questions to answer over the next two weeks.