Smooth sailing for Kimbrel in Red Sox debut

Smooth sailing for Kimbrel in Red Sox debut

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In the top of the fourth inning on Friday afternoon, the bullpen gate swung open at JetBlue Park and on came Craig Kimbrel for his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform.

This scene will typically take place five innings later once the regular season starts, and the atmosphere will be far more charged up. But for a first outing, Kimbrel gave the Red Sox what they were looking for in a 7-2 victory over the Rays.

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"Power stuff," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Changeup up in the strike zone to James Loney for the double. Other than that, it's good to see him get on the mound. For his first outing, it's kind of nice to see that kind of power, and he's not even close to the regular-season shape that he'll be in. I thought he threw the ball fine."

Kimbrel, the closer the Red Sox acquired from the Padres in December, is well past the stage in his career where he measures himself on Grapefruit League outings. But he accomplished what he wanted to in this one.

Red Sox discuss outing

"I felt like it went good," said Kimbrel. "I was controlling my fastball and tried to throw some offspeed pitches over the plate. With Spring Training, that will come, but I was really pleased with how my fastball was today."

Facing five batters, Kimbrel allowed one hit and one unearned run while walking none and striking out one. He finished his performance by blowing a high heater by Taylor Motter.

"Right now, it's working on my timing, making sure that my hands are getting out, my foot is getting down and throwing the ball over the plate," Kimbrel said. "I'm glad I didn't go out there and walk the house today. Just going out there and letting them put it in play and throwing the ball over the plate was my goal, and that's what I did."

As for what it's like pitching for the Red Sox, Kimbrel suggests you ask him again in a month.

"You can't replicate it," said Kimbrel. "This game won't allow it in the ninth inning with 40,000 people in the stands. I've done this a few years. I just have to get my body ready and then everything kind of falls in line."

Kimbrel is eager to get going with a team he thinks will be among the best in the game.

"I think we've got a pretty good chance," said Kimbrel. "Right now, I know it's early in the spring but I can kind of get a good taste of what everybody wants this year and everybody has a great attitude. We just have to hope we get through spring healthy and we get off to a good roll."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.