Orioles Shift Kimbrel's Role Amid Bullpen Challenges

Orioles reassign Kimbrel to refine bullpen strategy

by Abdullah Magsi
Orioles Shift Kimbrel's Role Amid Bullpen Challenges
© Greg Fiume/Getty Images

In a significant bullpen adjustment, the Baltimore Orioles have temporarily reassigned closer Craig Kimbrel to an earlier relief role, as they strategize on revitalizing his performance. During Friday's matchup against Arizona, which the Orioles clinched 4-2, Kimbrel appeared in the seventh inning, deviating from his usual ninth-inning appearances.

This change allowed Yennier Cano to close out the game, a role adjustment that manager Brandon Hyde indicated might persist in the short term. Hyde described Kimbrel's deployment as "day-to-day," signaling a flexible approach to his use on the mound as they aim to recalibrate his effectiveness.

Despite the shift, Kimbrel delivered a strong performance in his new slot, pitching a clean inning with one strikeout and no allowed baserunners, showcasing potential for resurgence.

Bullpen Strategy Shifts

This was a season-long strategic move, precipitated by Tommy John surgery for Felix Bautista, who originally had Kimbrel all set to stabilize the back end of the bullpen.

The ride has been a rough one for Kimbrel as a closer. He has allowed seven earned runs in 14.1 innings this season and has let three save opportunities get away. His struggles peaked last week when he was pulled from the ninth inning in back-to-back outings after failing to protect a lead.

Second, the Orioles' bullpen has arisen as their major weakness so far in the season, giving rise to speculations that the management may have to look at bringing in more pitching talent before the trade deadline to strengthen their late-game options.

As Baltimore continues to push through these challenging times, evolving roles in their bullpen stands as a testament to being proactive in maintaining competitiveness and optimizing player performance. The team’s management remains hopeful that with strategic adjustments and continued evaluation, Kimbrel can regain his former prowess and contribute effectively to the Orioles' aspirations this season.