Craig Kimbrel is no longer the Dodgers’ supervisor.
Over there. That’s what Dave Roberts said on Friday. Finally.
The words came falteringly, with thoughtful pauses, but they came.
“I just think I’m going to hold Craig down tonight,” Roberts said. “And my expectation is, yes, I spoke to him today. Right now the plan is to switch roles and put him in a position to pitch in different innings in different situations.
“He was very open to doing what’s best for the ball club. So I feel good about it and we’ll see where that takes us.”
Kimbrel gave up a homerun in the ninth inning on Thursday to give the Arizona Diamondbacks a run ahead. The Dodgers won in the bottom of the inning on Mookie Betts’ walk-off single, which gave Kimbrel the win.
But Kimbrel, 34, has lost five of 27 saves and has a 4.14 ERA in 57 appearances this season. He is seventh all-time with 394 saves in 13 seasons and led the league in saves for four consecutive years ending in 2014.
Perhaps that’s why Roberts and the Dodgers front office stuck with him for so long, even though his effectiveness had clearly declined since his heyday.
Roberts said he appreciated the way Kimbrel took the news that he was no longer the closest.
“He’s such a professional and knows there’s more, more consistency, just the openness to do what’s best,” he said. “My job is to find him the best job and he doesn’t have to worry about changing the routine from something he’s always done. He sees it as a challenge. That’s what we would expect and it really appeals to him as a team player.”
Roberts said no reliever will be taking on the closer role for the time being. Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol and Alex Vesia are the most obvious candidates.
“No, for us it’s finding, it’s treating him like we treat all our guys, putting them in the best position to get out,” Roberts said. “That’s kind of how I’m going to approach each inning for the ‘pen’.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.