PHILADELPHIA — The Braves got a decisive ninth-inning grand slam from Dan Uggla to extend their winning streak to four games Monday, but enthusiasm across Braves Country was tempered by news from the clubhouse after the game that closer Craig Kimbrel didn’t pitch due to a sore shoulder.
“Kimbrel has got some shoulder soreness, and we’re going day-to-day with him,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who had not previously mentioned anything about Kimbrel’s situation to reporters.
He disclosed the issue for the first time after Monday’s game, when Gonzalez was asked whether he considered bringing in Kimbrel during the eighth inning, when reliever Luis Avilan got rocked for five runs, or during the ninth when David Carpenter pitched in the save situation.
Kimbrel last pitched Saturday, when he converted his National League-leading fifth save in his sixth appearance of the season.
“Nothing major, just no reason to push it this early in the year,” Kimbrel said. “Take a few days off, be ready to go.”
The Braves made a big splash in February when they signed Kimbrel, 25, to a four-year, $42 million contract extension with a fifth-year option, one day before the Alabama native was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing. His contract could be worth more than $59 million including the $13 million option and incentives.
He has a 1.59 ERA with 12 strikeouts and one walk in 5 2/3 innings, and Kimbrel struck out the side Friday when he faced the heart of the Nationals’ order in the ninth inning of a 10-inning Braves win.
Gonzalez said the issue cropped up after Saturday’s appearance. Kimbrel said he had some discomfort during spring training.
“It’s something that I’ve felt through spring training,” he said. “Nothing that really hinders me on the field. Just a little uncomfortable. But like I said, just take a few days off.”
When asked to elaborate on how much it had bothered him in spring training, Kimbrel downplayed the previous comment and stressed that he wasn’t worried or concerned about the current situation.
“Being a pitcher, things get sore every now and then,” he said. “So, (we’re) going to take a few days and then get right back out there.”
Gonzalez was also asked if he was concerned.
“No, no. Not at all,” he said. “Talking to Craig and talking to the trainers, I think it’s one of those things, every reliever goes through it. Sometimes … if we go out today and the score stays the same (before Phillies’ five-run eighth) you guys don’t even know (that Kimbrel had a sore shoulder).
“Throughout the season, guys are hurt and banged up, and if they’re not the closer in a save situation, nobody would even know it. You give guys some days off. I’m not concerned at all.”
Kimbrel has 144 career saves, 10 from matching John Smoltz’s franchise record. His 90.6-percent save conversation rate ranks third all-time among relievers with at least 150 save opportunities, behind Eric Gagne (91.7) and Smoltz (91.1).
He has a 1.39 career ERA and has struck out 393 of the 904 batters he’s faced in the majors, a remarkable 43 percent.
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