Kimbrel adjusting well to life outside of Atlanta
Dealt to Padres before season, closer welcomed former team to San Diego
SAN DIEGO -- Nearly five months later, Craig Kimbrel has grown comfortable with how his life was vastly altered by the trade that shocked the baseball world hours before the 2015 season began. But the Padres' closer admitted it took some time to deal with the reality that he would not have the chance to spend his entire career with the Braves.
"After going to the same ballpark for five years and going through the same routine, you just kind of get used to everything," Kimbrel said. "Obviously coming out [to San Diego], I knew nothing about the [Padres'] organization. So just getting the visual and getting my everyday routine took some time, but now it's just like I'm coming to the yard and playing the game."
Kimbrel lived his childhood dream as he spent each of the past five seasons playing for the same club that he had loved dating back to his youthful days in Huntsville, Ala. The dominant closer exited Spring Training this year with an aspiration to spend his entire career with one organization.
But Kimbrel's dream abruptly ended a few hours later, when after settling into a Miami hotel, he learned that Atlanta had traded him to San Diego, simply because his attachment provided the only chance for the club to relieve itself of the $46.3 million owed to Melvin Upton Jr. through the end of the 2017 season.
Kimbrel returned to Turner Field as a visitor in June, and as the Braves have spent this week in San Diego, he has reconnected again with some of his former coaches and teammates, the few that are still with Atlanta.
"At first, there was some uneasiness because you didn't want to cross the lines of being too friendly, because you still have a matchup to worry about," Kimbrel said. "But then again, those guys are my friends, and I've spent a lot of time with them."
Freddie Freeman, Michael Bourn, Andrelton Simmons, Arodys Vizcaino, Julio Teheran and Peter Moylan are the only members of the Braves' active roster that played regular-season games with Kimbrel in Atlanta. Freeman, Simmons and Teheran are the only members of the group who were with Kimbrel as he played his final season with the Braves last year.
"Now I don't know anybody," Kimbrel said. "I was talking to [bullpen coach Eddie Perez], and he said there has been like 30 guys down [in the bullpen] this year. I couldn't believe it."
As Atlanta has used 29 relievers this season and dealt with the effects of losing closer Jason Grilli to a season-ending injury in July, Kimbrel has overcome a couple shaky early-season outings and maintained his role as one of the game's best closers. He has posted a 1.14 ERA and converted 23 of 24 save opportunities in his past 32 appearances entering Wednesday.
In the process, Kimbrel has separated himself from those days of battling Atlanta's traffic and grown quite comfortable with the lifestyle and climate San Diego provides.
"There is just such a relaxing feel in certain areas around here," Kimbrel said. "There are some days where you're relaxed and think, 'Hey, I've still got to go to work today, too.' It's nice."