Well, the “Let It Go” honeymoon is over. Craig Kimbrel gave Los Angeles Dodgers fans a nice reprieve from his struggles, but surrendering a three-run walk-off home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night has us back at square one.
Manager Dave Roberts called upon Kimbrel in the 10th inning last night while the Dodgers held a 3-2 lead. LA hadn’t surrendered a run since the second inning. Michael Grove delivered a nice start. Chris Martin, Tommy Kahnle, Alex Vesia and Evan Phillips held down the fort.
But then came Kimbrel. With the ghost runner on second, Kimbrel issued a walk, struck out the next batter, forced a groundout, and then surrendered a three-run homer to watch the D-backs steal a 5-3 win.
The most concerning aspect of this? Kimbrel was facing the bottom of Arizona’s lineup. In theory, it should’ve been a layup for the right-hander, who had tossed nine straight scoreless innings heading into Wednesday.
Time to panic? Not really. Kimbrel wasn’t going to pitch the remainder of the season unscathed, come on now. But there’s no doubt Roberts’ comments leave the Dodgers’ postseason bullpen plan up in the air.
What’s the Dodgers postseason bullpen plan with Craig Kimbrel?
“Contingent on what he’s been doing.” Yes, Roberts alluded to this earlier in the year. But that was before Blake Treinen landed back on the injured list. That was before Brusdar Graterol went down with elbow soreness. There were two potential solutions to address more Kimbrel meltdowns. At this point, it’s unclear how Treinen and Graterol will be able to contribute in the postseason (or the remainder of the regular season).
Are the Dodgers really going to rely on Kahnle, who’s pitched six innings since the start of 2022, for high-leverage playoff outings? What about David Price? Is he going to be part of this equation? Possibly. But all we’re trying to detail here is that the injuries to Treinen and Graterol have sort of put Roberts in a precarious situation.
How many changes can he realistically make with a skeleton crew? Or is the answer just as simple as rotating Kimbrel, Martin, Phillips and Vesia in big moments, regardless of the inning? Then mix in Treinen, Kahnle, and Graterol, assuming those guys get back to full strength/don’t land back on the IL before October?
A Kimbrel bounce back was almost essential for the Dodgers. And it could still happen/be happening! There are a little over three weeks left in the regular season. But Roberts’ comments after the closer’s latest transgression, no matter how sensible they might seem, lay out a fairly incomplete plan for when every single out matters.