When the Nationals optioned reliever Cole Kimball to Triple-A Syracuse on St. Patrick's Day, manager Jim Riggleman told reporters that the right-hander had earned the chance to pitch in the majors despite being caught in a roster numbers crunch. Six weeks into the regular season, the 25-year-old Kimball is finally getting his shot.
The Nationals recalled Kimball on Saturday, hoping to shore up an overused bullpen, To make room for Kimball on the 25-man roster, right-hander Brian Broderick, the Rule 5 pick who was Friday night's loser in a 6-5 setback to the Florida Marlins, was designated for assignment.
"Kimball's earned it," said Nats general manager Mike Rizzo. "He's earned it since spring training. Obviously we had reasons to keep Broderick on the roster (out of spring training) and we tried to see if we could absorb him in the bullpen because he was a Rule 5 pick. But Kimball has thrown too well to keep down at Triple-A and we felt that we needed another reliable power arm in the bullpen. His stuff was good, his numbers were good and his attitude was ready to be brought up to the big leagues."
Kimball, a 12th-round pick in 2006, was chosen instead of right-hander Collin Balester, who didn't retire a batter and gave up four runs Friday night. Kimball last pitched Tuesday.
Rather than stew about the demotion to the minors after posting a 1.13 ERA in six Grapefruit League relief outings, Kimball went to Syracuse and forced the Nationals to take notice. He did not allow a run in 13 2/3 innings with the Chiefs, going 1-0 with five saves and a .163 batting average-against in 12 appearances.
"I knew (the demotion) was coming," Kimball said after throwing a bullpen session for Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty before Saturday's game against the Marlins. "It was just something that was part of the business. What is it, six weeks later? It's not something to lose sleep over."
Sleep is something Kimball hasn't had much of since learning at 12:30 a.m. that he was going to Washington, D.C. He hopped an early-morning flight out of Syracuse and arrived at Nationals Park around 6:30 a.m., but proclaimed himself to be well-fueled on adrenaline and coffee. Knowing that the bullpen has been taxed with three consecutive extra-inning games, Kimball is eager for his major league debut.
"I'm fresh and these guys are worked," he said.
Broderick, a 24-year-old taken in the Rule 5 draft from the St. Louis organization at the Winter Meetings, was 0-1 with a 6.57 ERA in 11 relief appearances. The Nationals had hoped to hide the starter in long relief for the duration of the season, but Broderick could never really adjust to a new role and the Nationals were unable to give him enough regular work to keep him sharp. A long shot to make the roster out of spring training, Broderick won a spot by going 0-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 outings.
"I think Brian did fine, he threw the ball fine," manager Jim Riggleman said. "The long role in the bullpen is one that you really don't want to have to be using a lot (because) that means your starters are coming out early. The downside of that is that your long man sometimes doesn't get any work. That's kind of where we were. Starters had really done a good job going deep in the ballgame, so when Brian did get to pitch it was quite often in situations where he hadn't pitched in several days. Probably not a great role for him, he's been a starter his whole career."
Added Rizzo: "(Broderick) was unfamiliar with the role, how to prepare, how to bounce back. ... He gave it his all and we really like him."
Broderick's locker stall was already cleared out when the Nationals' clubhouse opened Saturday. The Nationals have 10 days to trade, release or waive him, but he must first pass through waivers in both leagues. If he does, the Cardinals have the option of taking him back for half of the $50,000 Rule 5 draft price paid by the Nationals in December.