Kimbrel has been asked by the Red Sox to focus heavily on improving his command this spring, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports. Boston’s closer walked 5.1 batters per nine innings in 2016.
Kimbrel has been an elite closer since he became one for Atlanta in 2011, but his performance for Boston last season was less than elite. Many statistics indicated he was the same old Kimbrel — opponent batting average of .150 and 14.1 K/9 stand out — but command got him in trouble. Of the 22 pitchers that recorded at least 20 saves, he ranked 17th in ERA. “That comes with alignment, delivering the ball to home plate,” manager John Farrell said. “He got into a little bit of a habit where his posture might not have allowed him to stay in line, he’d end up being a little bit side-to-side, and that’s where you saw some pitches yanked down and away from right-handers or he’d miss up to the arm side to left-handers.” He’s in no danger of losing the closer’s job, but more consistent command is the goal for 2017.