Kimbrel amped to pitch in front of Fenway faithful

Newson February 19th, 2016No Comments

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The pleasantries of Spring Training are all well and good for new Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. But the real fun will start for this ultra-competitive righty once the bullpen gate at Fenway Park opens for the first time and he converts a save with close to 40,000 fans roaring with every strike.

San Diego — where Kimbrel pitched last year — is a blissful city with good weather nearly all of the time. Atlanta has a good baseball tradition and Kimbrel felt lucky to pitch for the team he rooted for as a kid.

Red Sox’s Spring Training info

But Kimbrel is eagerly awaiting the challenge of pitching the ninth inning in Boston.

“I feel like I do better in big situations. I love seeing people in the seats,” said Kimbrel. “I love the crowds getting loud. I think that’s just a great atmosphere to have. I know as a player I feed off of it and the entire team feeds off of it.

“I want that ball at the end of the game. I want to wrap it up and let everyone go home happy. So the more opportunities I get to do that, and the more situations I get put in that are tight situations, I think that’s good. Hopefully more times than not, we come out on top.”

Before president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski traded four prospects to the Padres for Kimbrel, he heard a lot from advisor Frank Wren about how much the righty relished the big moments. Wren was the general manager in Atlanta when Kimbrel was there.

Outlook: Kimbrel, RP, BOS

“Craig is a proven, elite closer,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We’re looking forward to handing the ball to him in the ninth inning. In getting to have some understanding of him, I think he’ll thrive on the energy that is Fenway, and after spending a year on the West Coast, I think he’s truly looking forward to being back on the East Coast.”

“I don’t have to schedule my phone calls around time zones anymore,” said Kimbrel. “I’m definitely excited to be back on the East Coast.”

If Kimbrel was less than thrilled about being dealt from the Braves to the Padres the day before the 2015 season, he is thrilled about his latest move, which happened in November.

“I’m ready to go,” Kimbrel said. “I’m ready to figure out what this organization is about. This is one of the biggest organizations out there, and I couldn’t be more excited. We’ve got a lot of good hitters on our team, and I’m just glad I don’t have to face them.”

One of those hitters is Hanley Ramirez.

What was it like to face Kimbrel?

“Easy,” said Ramirez. “I don’t give credit to pitchers.”

Then the right-handed hitter turned serious.

“He’s my teammate now, so he’s nasty. He’s good. He’s a competitor,” Ramirez said. “He knows how to pitch. He throws hard.”

Kimbrel will have another closer setting him up in Koji Uehara.

“I was joking with Koji earlier that I want him to teach me how to throw a split-finger,” Kimbrel said.

When Kimbrel gets between those lines, don’t expect to see a smile. He is as serious about baseball as the city he is about to start playing in.

“That’s how I am. There’s no holding back,” Kimbrel said. “There’s a time to relax and a time to work, and right now, I’m at work. I guess I can relax a little bit when I get home.”

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