It begins with the first chords of the song “Sweet Child O ‘Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, the opening guitar that resonates around Slash’s Dodger Stadium.
The crowd begins to hum. The bull’s door opens. He pulls a 381st man out of a tree with a sharp beard and curly hair. career saves – his unshakable demeanor is as ambitious as he is patient as he climbs a hill with trots in the field.
All of this is part of Craig Kimbrel’s experience. And for the first time this season, Dodgers fans saw it up close.
Changed to the team before the season, the addition of Kimbrel to date has been successful in the hopes that Kenley Jansen will be able to fill a hole the size of behind the bullpen.
He accepted all nine Despite a few close calls, its saving opportunities. He has 4.15 ERAs and 17 shots in 13 shotsThe flashing of a powerful arsenal that turns him into an active career in the sport saves the leader and the leader of all time in the percentage of strikeout.
And he gave a new ability to the ninth shot at Dodger Stadium, the fact that he was on the rubber – from his pre-match glow to the trademark hanging goal position – as scary as ever in the 13th MLB season.
“He’s not one of those who came in on the ninth shot, and you feel comfortable,” said teammate Freddie Freeman.
“He has that look in his eyes,” said his colleague Alex Vesia. “You don’t want to mess with him when he’s on the hill.”
Two months While at the Dodgers, Kimbrel brought a new dynamic to the clubhouse.
Only in a completely different way from his presence on the field.
Behind the scenes, another Craig Kimbrel appears – a comfortable, optimistic, always hospitable (and everything but scary) handsome guy who has become an instant favorite with his new team.
“Its her [arm] He has a big beard, he has a ponytail and he throws 100 – you think he’s very tense, “said Freeman. “It simply came to our notice then. But when you take him off the hill, he’s just a great guy. “
This side of Kimbrelin challenges his teammates in video games and golf; jokingly remembered by manager Dave Roberts as a player who violated the club’s best shooting practice; mentor for young rescuers; it is also one of the most comfortable bullpen participation for everyone except one shot every night.
During one game this season, Kimbrel and David Price laughed and joked until the middle of the eighth game. Kimbrel then tied his shoes, threw a few warm-up pitches, and blew up the player who hit three Atlanta Braves to relieve stress.
“He turns the key and turns into the Hall of Fame where he was when he picked up the hill,” Price said. “You need a special person to be able to do that.”
After another walk in San Diego, Kimbrel Freeman said his neck was constricted during the game, only positive, forcing him to focus on his mechanics.
Remembering the conversation, Freeman laughed and said, “I think, ‘Only you would think so.’
When the team’s Philadelphia bus exploded on the way to Citizens Bank Park last week, Roberts mockingly asked if anyone could wear a spare.
Kimbrel’s hand went up in the air.
“It’s so hard to talk about Craig closer,” Freeman said. “Because Craig is a better man.”
Kimbrel, who recently stood near the Dodgers shelter, smiled when asked about his dueling reputation – about the opposite characters he balanced to perfection and crossed between them so perfectly.
“There’s definitely a transition there,” Kimbrel said. “A lot of people ask me why I do what I do in the barrow. I think it has a lot to do with it. It’s a good distinction between who I am and who I’m trying to be. “
“I think it’s nice to hear that everyone sees me as a fun and calm guy,” he said. “Because I try to be like that.”
Kimbrel never planned to leave a mark at the end of the games.
Growing up, he dreamed of being in a major league rotation. Even now, he jokingly calls himself a “failed start.”
“I think we all plan to be on the hill in the final fight,” he said. “But often, as children, we also start this game.”
Born and raised in Ala., Huntsville, Kimbrel’s prospects for any professional career flourished late and somewhat by accident.
In high school, the fast ball of the right hand rarely exceeded a low speed of 90 miles per hour. However, after breaking his leg after graduation, the recovery process changed his career. He weighed 30 kg, strengthened his upper body and practiced throwing from his knees while recovering.
“When I came back,” he said, “I was throwing more.”
Much, more difficult.
At Wallace State, a small college near his home, Kimbrel began reaching his 90s. He was re-elected by Atlanta Braves in the 33rd round after his freshman season, and then again in the third round a year after returning to school in 2007 for an impressive second-year campaign.
He struggled in his second professional season in 2009, descending from Braves’ upper Group A to lower A branch and not firing directly at the bases. But by the end of that year, he had mastered the fastball-curveball combination. That sent him off to make his MLB debut the following season.
“After he was sent,” Freeman, another Braves prospect who was in the Braves high A team at the time, said, “he has become who he is now.”
In his early days with the brave, Kimbrel was almost cowardly because he adapted to the professions.
Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, who is still part of the team’s main league squad, acted as if the young pitcher was upset to see how he would react. One day, Perez recalls that he was not sure if Kimbrel was allowed to wave his father at the bull.
“She was very shy when she first came,” Perez said, laughing recently. “He would be worried about a lot of things.”
Kimbrel’s dominance made him successful. He won the Junior Award of the Year in 2011 and led the National League in each of his first four full seasons.
His ninth shooting personality, including a raised arm posture, began as a way to combat biceps tendinitis in his new season and has since become a key element of his routine – but also crystallized.
“I think the adrenaline and what to expect in this role helped me, especially when I was younger in my career,” Kimbrel said. “I had to take responsibility for myself and all my teammates. That’s how I looked at it. “
It didn’t change as much as Kimbrel’s surroundings.
On the eve of the 2015 season, he was assigned to San Diego Padres, where Roberts was the club’s bench coach.
“Closer to home, you think he has a certain demeanor,” Roberts said. “But when you get to know him, when you get between the lines, he becomes a different person. And this is what you want. “
Kimbrel moved again the following winter, dealing with the Boston Red Sox in another blockbuster deal.
“He was like he is now,” said Price, the start of the Red Sox teams. “It’s really a lot of fun to be around.”
In 2019, when Kimbrel’s release agency took three months off the season, Freeman tried to bring him back to Atlanta before signing a contract with the Chicago Cubs.
“He’s been on the whole map for the last few years, going from team to team,” Freeman said. “It simply came to our notice then. Everyone wants Craig Kimbreli. He has been doing this for a long time. “
Freeman and Kimbrel reunited this spring.
Although Kimbrelin has spent three ups and downs in Chicago – he published the worst ERAs of his career with the Cubs in 2019 and 2020, was awarded a strong All-Star in the first half of 2021, and then again after trading with the White player. fell. The Dodgers targeted him after signing the Sox-Jansen Braves on a recent date.
A few weeks after Freeman signed with the Dodgers, trading for Kimbrel finally took place with the transfer of AJ Pollock to the White Sox.
“Sometimes it’s weird how baseball works,” Freeman said. “My husband took a picture of him pitching, and I took a picture of him playing first. After eight years, who would have thought that we are teammates again.
Price, Roberts, and others who have crossed paths with Kimbrel before share similar reactions and are happy to be back in the presence of All-Star eight times.
“I just love it, as if every day is his first day in the big leagues,” Roberts said. “It’s great to see a guy who’s so talented and not tired.”
For the rest of the Dodgers, it was the first time they had seen the veteran up close.
They were aware of the existence of his mound. Kimbrel, who turned 34 on Saturday, was equally impressed by everything he brought backstage.
“He loves to talk and communicate with children and treats me like a brother,” Vesia said. He is very nice when he comes to me and says, “Good job, you were disgusting tonight.” ”
Another Dodgers veteran rescuer, Daniel Hudson, added: “He’s definitely a guy you can count on because he’s been very consistent and successful throughout his career.”
All this was demonstrated in the first few months of this season.
Although the number of rescue situations for the first-place club was surprisingly low – Kimbrel went through two separate 13-day races and did not get a chance to save during this time – he turned each of them into a simple approach that emphasizes his solemn in-game behavior.
“To be honest, I want to be as boring as possible,” he said. “Strikeouts are fun and look great. But a quick 1-2-3 shot and sending everyone home happy, that’s what I really do. Strengthen what everyone is doing throughout the game. “
After a rescue this month, Kimbrel saw Vesia keep the ball closer when he missed two runners in a win over the San Francisco Giants.
When a third-year pitcher asked him why, Kimbrel, in his restrained, uncontrollable way of thinking, tried not to sound like a big deal.
He had just signed Joe Nathan for the eighth most saves in MLB history.
“It just put everything in perspective,” Vesia said with a laugh. “With this man, we are literally witnessing history.”