This morning reliever Cole Kimball arrived at Nationals Park after being recalled from the minors. Then hours later, the hard-throwing right-hander made his debut in the majors by working the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 1-0 loss to Florida.
Kimball was among the more impressive pitchers on the Nationals’ roster in spring training, and he earned the call-up to the big leagues following a stellar stretch in Class AAA Syracuse, where he did not permit a run in 13 2/3 innings, going 1-0 with five saves in 12 appearances.
Against the Marlins, Kimball’s fastball topped out a 95 mph, and he consistently threw in the lower 90s. Kimball struck out one, induced a groundout and a flyout and walked one batter in support of hard-luck starter Livan Hernandez, who gave up one run over seven innings but was saddled with the loss because of the Nationals’ ongoing struggles at the plate.
“It was exciting. It was nice,” Kimball said of his debut. “It would have been better if we had won, but it’s a good ballgame. I mean, Livo pitched a gem, and the defense was unbelievable all game all the way around, so a very exciting game to be a part of.”
Kimball’s first batter was first baseman Gaby Sanchez, whose .331 average is tied for seventh in the NL. Kimball started Sanchez with a four-seam fastball at 92 mph for a called strike, got strike two swinging on a curveball and registered the strikeout swinging with another curve on a 1-2 count.
“I didn’t even know he was up,” said Kimball, whom the Nationals selected in the 12th round of the 2006 draft. “I was just trying to throw strike one, and after that it was get him out.”
Kimball is getting his opportunity as the Nationals sought to add another power pitcher in the bullpen to work presumably ahead of Tyler Clippard and closer Drew Storen. Kimball claimed the roster spot pitcher Brian Broderick never was able to cement in his attempt to become a reliever after having grown accustomed to starting in the minors.
Kimball, meantime, went 9-1 with 23 saves and a 1.85 ERA in 69 appearances with Syracuse, Class AA Harrisburg and Class A Potomac in 2010 and this season. He averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in his past two minor league seasons, and his recent upswing was the decisive factor in his call-up, according to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.
In addition to Kimball, the Nationals also were able to use reliever Henry Rodriguez, who struck out the only two batters he faced in the eighth inning. The hard-throwing right-hander had gone nearly a week without pitching in a game.
Kimball “and Henry both needed to get some work,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. “Henry hadn’t pitched in a while. Cole just getting here, but Cole hadn’t pitched in about four days also. They both needed to pitch. We’d rather that they didn’t pitch today because that means that we would have been up in the eighth instead of down, but looking for something to be positive about there on that side of the game is that [Kimball] came in and handled that inning real well, and Henry did, too.”