Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Less than one week before the 2022 regular season began, the Los Angeles Dodgers made a surprising trade to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for AJ Pollock.
The 33-year-old has long been one of the best closers in baseball and often pitched against the Dodgers, appearing in 19 games and throwing 20 innings, which mostly came while he was with the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs.
When Kimbrel was an opponent of the Dodgers, his focus was to stop the cheers of Dodgers fans, but now, that has reversed.
“I think that’s the goal as a player, to keep the fans cheering for you,” Kimbrel said after converting his first home save at Dodger Stadium. “If they start booing, you’re not doing very good. As long as I can keep everybody happy and keep the cheers going, I think we’ll be all right.”
Kimbrel has previously appeared in a game at Dodger Stadium seven times, including one appearance where he finished off a no-hitter for the Cubs.
The different atmosphere of pitching a home game at the historic ballpark led to the first three pitches Kimbrel threw all missing the zone, with the first two nowhere close to being a strike as he was amped up.
“I think I was excited. I wouldn’t call it nerves,” Kimbrel explained. “I think nerves are something you can’t harness and get back. I think that excitement, I just let a couple pitches get away. I stepped off, took a breath and got back in there.”
Kimbrel ended up getting the leadoff hitter to pop up on a full count pitch before he retired the next two hitters to earn his first save at his new home ballpark.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a new ballpark because I’ve pitched here quite a few times,” Kimbrel noted. “On the home side it was nice. The cheers were good, the crowd was good. I kind of let three balls get away from me there to start off with but was able to settle down and get the job done.”
Kimbrel thankful to make appearance
The Dodgers have already played seven games this season but so far Kimbrel has only appeared in two of them. His last appearance came one week ago, so he was thankful to pitch in another game in the 3-1 victory.
“I mean, yeah. I warmed up [Thursday] night and then we had that big inning, so I sat down,” Kimbrel said about his lack of innings thus far.
“I feel like that’s going to happen a lot this year. We’ve got a good offense and they’re going to explode at times. We’ve seen that so far this year. But yeah, it was good to get in there.”
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