Dombrowski happy with closer options, believes Kimbrel replacement is on roster

John Tomase
February 13, 2019 - 11:40 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Dave Dombrowski admits he's old-fashioned. He likes having a closer.

Whether that man will be Craig Kimbrel or not remains to be seen.

Dombrowski reiterated on Wednesday that he's happy with the internal options to replace Kimbrel, an All-Star closer who remains unsigned as spring training begins.

"Right now we're looking to have a closer when we leave camp," Dombrowski said. "I know you have to be careful in any world to be an old-fashioned mindset. But I will tell you that I still believe in talking to people, that pitching the ninth inning is different than pitching the other innings for many guys. Not everybody can do it."

Do the Red Sox have someone who can? Dombrowski rattled off multiple options, though obviously none of them possess Kimbrel's pedigree. He cited Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and even knuckleballer Steven Wright, to name three.

"Anytime you say you're going to replace a player of Craig Kimbrel's caliber with the type of talent he has, you just don't -- it's not easily done," Dombrowski said. "He's a, to me, a future Hall of Fame reliever and one of the best closers in the game. But sometimes other guys get the opportunity and they step up. We have people like Barnes, Brasier, that we both think have the abilities to do so. (Tyler) Thornburg has been a good closer in the past. We'll see how he is in the spring. His health is fine. We'll see if he can bounce back. Nobody has really seen, to me, Tyler Thornburg that was out there before he joined in Milwaukee. I know everybody is critical of the situation. I understand how things go. But this guy was a really good pitcher. He's healthy. He feels great. Steven Wright is a possibility of a guy, depending on how his health is. So we feel we have some internal options to go ahead and do that. Of course we'll still keep an eye on what's taking place outside the camp, but we think our answers come from within.

"There's no question guys like Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, they have the pure stuff to pitch the ninth inning, but will they do it on a consistent basis? Time tells. Really, that's why in spring training you'll never find that answer out. It'll be the regular season when you find it out because in spring training it's not the same game. That's one of the reasons why, because some people just don't feel comfortable pitching the ninth inning. I think that's why it hasn't necessarily evolved into that.

Dombrowski declined comment on Kimbrel, noting, "I can't get into conversations with free agents." That said, the longer Kimbrel remains on the market, perhaps the Red Sox actually will move on with their internal options.