Kimball felt "back to normal" with repaired shoulder in AFL

Although Cole Kimball is always a fierce competitor when he takes the mound, the Nationals told the right-handed reliever that his innings in the Arizona Fall League were more important than the numbers.

But if you know Kimball, and if you remember how he pitched for the Nationals in his short 2011 stint, he is never satisfied with just pitching. He wants to go out and win every time.

Kimball pitched in 15 innings over 11 games for the AFL's Salt River Rafters, compiling a 4.80 ERA. He struck out 10, had nine walks and allowed eight earned runs. It was 15 that was most impressive, as in 45 outs.

After rotator cuff shoulder surgery in July 2011, Kimball returned for just 5 2/3 minor league innings this season. So the time spent in Arizona was big for his confidence. The shoulder was intact and bounced back with no fatigue after each outing.

"It was a blast," Kimball said. "It felt like it got back to normal. My velocity was creeping back. Low-to-mid 90s, couple good 95, 96 mph. I was feeling good out there. I never really had to ice anything.

"I was just getting innings, my mechanics were fine. I pitched better than the numbers. It is just baseball, stuff happens. It is out of your hand once the ball leaves your hand. I was there to get my innings in. I thought I pitched pretty well."

Kimball always looks to shut down his opponent on the mound, but the Nationals had a bigger picture in mind for the reliever.

Because of the shoulder issue in 2011, Kimball has logged only 33 1/3 innings since his 78-plus inning effort in a sensational 2010. That year, he went 8-1 with a 2.17 ERA and 101 strikeouts. So the 15 frames in Arizona served a major purpose.

"I am a competitor I want to win," Kimball said. "I felt like I wasn't out there to just get innings, I was out there to help my team win. But the way the organization viewed it was I was out there to be healthy after I pitched. And I was. So I think both sides got what we wanted."

Although the Rafters came up one win from the title, Kimball said the team was "eerily similar" in makeup to the 2010 Scottsdale Scorpions team he was a part of that won it all in the AFL.

Kimball has been keeping very busy, working out and training every day before he begins throwing again in about two weeks, welcoming first son Cole Jr. and participating in a baseball clinic with other major league players that raised money for Hurricane Sandy victims.

And whether it is in the minors or back with the Nationals next season, Kimball is just ready to get going and enter spring training completely healthy for the first time in two seasons.

"I feel like I am not a finished product, by any means, but I was pretty close to being effective in the big leagues (in 2011)," Kimball said. "I just want to get back to where I was. If I get back to the big leagues next year or the year after that, I just want to be effective."

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