Kimbrel, Simmons to leave Braves camp for WBC commitments

Braves fans snap pictures of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel as he works on his delivery.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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Braves fans snap pictures of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel as he works on his delivery.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Three Braves including closer Craig Kimbrel and shortstop Andrelton Simmons will leave spring training to play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, and could be gone anywhere from one to three weeks.

Kimbrel (Team USA), Simmons (Netherlands) and utility infielder Ramiro Pena (Mexico) will soon leave Braves camp, Simmons this weekend and Kimbrel and Pena a week later. The length of their absences will be determined by whether or not their respective teams advance beyond pool play.

Simmons leaves Saturday to join the Dutch team for training camp and first-round pool play in Taiwan, and he’ll be gone at least for 2-1/2 weeks. Kimbrel and Pena will leave March 3 for their respective teams’ training camps in Arizona and first-round pool play in Phoenix.

The minimum that either would be gone is one week, if either team were eliminated in the first round of pool play.

Team USA and Mexico are the two favorites to advance — Canada and Italy are the others in the four-team pool — in which case Kimbrel and Pena would be gone from Braves camp for at least another week to play the next round in Miami March 12-16. The championship round is March 17-19 in San Francisco.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wasn’t concerned about his WBC players falling behind in hitting, fielding or pitching drills, since they’ll be doing the same or similar work with their respective national teams that they’d be doing if they were in Braves camp.

“The thing that scares all managers and coaches is not that they might not get the work in,” he said. “It’s competing at a high level (this early in the year), and there’s nothing you can do about that. The first time that Kimbrel faces Venezuela with 40,000 people in the stands, it’s not the same as facing the Detroit Tigers with three big-leaguers and guys trying to make the club, in Lakeland or here in Orlando. That’s the thing that scares us managers and coaches.

“And there’s nothing that you say to them or do to prepare for that, because they’re competitors. And no matter whether we say, ‘Hey, this is only your fifth outing,’ they’re going to pin their ears back and try to throw 110 (mph).”

When Simmons and Pena are both out of camp, Gonzalez said Braves shortstop duties will likely be handled by Tyler Pastornicky and prospect Elmer Reyes.