Red Sox

McAdam: It's way too soon to worry about Kimbrel


McAdam: It's way too soon to worry about Kimbrel

BOSTON -- A year ago, Craig Kimbrel took some time adjusting to a new team. Are we seeing the same thing play out here in Boston?

Last year, on the eve of the start of the 2015 season, Kimbrel was dealt from the Atlanta Braves to the San Diego Padres.

Kimbrel was brilliant in his Padres debut, striking out the side in his first appearance just days after the trade was made. In fact, he was terrific for the first six appearances, going unscored upon while converting on each of his first four save opportunities.

But after that, Kimbrel fell into a funk that lasted about a month. From April 17 to May 19, Kimbrel pitched in 12 games and allowed 10 earned runs, resulting in an ERA of 8.44 in that span. He gave up 13 hits in 10 2/3 innings.

Thereafter, Kimbrel returned to form. From the middle of May until the end of the season, he was brilliant, posting an ERA of 1.44 while yielding just 24 hits in 43 2/3 innings. In that span, he struck out 64 and walked just 17.

Perhaps that, as much as anything, helps explain Kimbrel's two stumbles on his first Red Sox homestand.

In the home opener against Baltimore, he gave up a three-run monster shot into the center-field bleachers to slugger Chris Davis, turning what had been a 6-6 tie into a 9-6 Orioles lead (the O's would go on to a 9-7 victory).

On Monday, Kimbrel imploded in the eighth inning, walking in one run before giving up a two-run bloop single. What had been a 1-1 tie quickly devolved to 4-1 lead for Toronto and, eventually, a 4-3 Blue Jays win.

On the surface, Kimbrel looks as dominant as ever. His fastball touched 99 mph on several occasions Monday. And after striking out Edwin Encarnacion for the second out, he got ahead of Troy Tulowitzki 1-and-2, moving to within a strike of leaving the bases jammed and the game tied.

But Kimbrel then threw three straight pitches out of the strike zone, including a ball four that was way up and inside, nowhere close to a strike.

Kimbrel didn't sound thrilled with being asked to come in to get outs in the eighth inning, but that won't happen often. After Koji Uehara walked two batters and hit another, John Farrell didn't have much choice but to go with his closer earlier than expected.

The suggestion that Kimbrel lacks the makeup to succeed in Boston is wholly premature. Though he's pitched in two markets that admittedly aren't as intense as Boston, anyone who's closed games out on the major-leagel level for as long and as well as Kimbrel shouldn't be cowed by a new environment.

Pitching in San Diego, Kimbrel had plenty of save chances in Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium and San Francisco's AT&T Park, two hostile settings. And while in Atlanta, he had plenty of exposure to Philadelphia and New York, which can be intimidating backdrops.

Is he having difficulty adjusting to the American League, which is known to have stronger and deeper lineups? Perhaps.

It's not as if Kimbrel has somehow lost it overnight.

He has the lowest ERA ever of any closer with a mininum of 250 innings and leads all relievers in saves since the start of the 2011 season. At 27 -- he turns 28 next month -- he's in the prime of his career.

Unless this homestand's difficulties morph into a longer, more disconcerting slump, it's too soon to say that Kimbrel doesn't have what it takes to succeed here.

Until then, it's best to view his struggles through the proper prism -- an accomplished closer who's had two poor games in a week.

For now, it's nothing more and nothing less.

As expected, it's Sale, Price and Porcello to start Sox season

As expected, it's Sale, Price and Porcello to start Sox season

New Red Sox manager Alex Cora has announced that, as expected, left-hander Chris Sale will be the Opening Day starter when the Red Sox begin their season nine days from now against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. David Price will pitch the second game and Rick Porcello the third. 

Cora told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla. that Eduardo Rodriguez would be in the fourth starter's spot if he's ready as he continues to recover from off-season knee surgery and left-hander Brian Johnson is preparing to be the fifth starter for now.

In Price's second Grapefruit League start on Tuesday, he pitched five innings and allowed two runs on three hits, walked one and struck out four in the Red Sox' 12-6 victory over the Pirates. Third baseman Rafael Devers, hitting .349 this spring, hit his third home run of the spring. Andrew Benintendi (.405) had a double and two RBI and first baseman Sam Travis drove in three. 

Sale had a much rougher outing Monday, giving up four runs on five hits, with three walks and six strikeouts in five innings against the Phillies. 



Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge are about to go global.

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday confirmed the Sox are interested to play the Yankees in London during next year's regular season. Bloomberg reported the clubs are nearing an agreement to play two games there in June 2019. Discussions are indeed taking place, but a deal is not done.

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“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make," Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics.

MLB has not played any games in Europe before. The Red Sox have made trips before, including to Japan before the 2008 season.