Kimbrel: "Let's make it simple, I've got to be better" (plus other notes before tonight's game)

Craig Kimbrel is working on some mechanical adjustments with Orioles coaches and instructors in an attempt to snap out of the funk that’s forced his removal in four of his last five appearances.

He isn’t working on an alibi.

Kimbrel won’t make excuses for the blown saves and runs allowed that have increased his ERA from 0.82 on April 24 to 4.73 and created some shuffling in the back end of the bullpen.

“Let’s make it simple, I’ve got to be better,” he said this afternoon. “I think four of my last five outings have been pretty bad and I’ve just got to be better than that. Whatever they are – walking guys, throwing pitches where I shouldn’t, giving guys opportunities, not capitalizing on opportunities in at-bats and things like that.

“It can be laying in the breaking ball more, being less predictable, you name it. Whatever it is. I need to figure it out and be better, and I fully expect to. I don’t go out there thinking I’m going to give up any runs. I go out there expecting I’m going to do my job each and every time. Unfortunately, the last couple times that hasn’t been the case, but I plan on turning it around and getting on a good roll just like I always do.”

Kimbrel didn’t want to get into specifics on his side work.

“I’m not going to sit here and talk about what I was doing wrong. I mean, it was wrong,” he said.

“I gave up runs, I walked guys, I asked our bullpen to come in and get us out of tight situations, which they did a couple of those times, and they really saved the games I set us up to lose on those days. Credit to them to be able to have my back on those days, to come in and help this team win on those days where I didn’t do my job. Just to make it simple, I’ve got to do better, as I’ve said, and that’s really it.”

Kimbrel is tied for fifth on the all-time saves list with 425 and is a nine-time All-Star, but this isn’t his first rough patch. He’s found ways to work out of them.

“I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my career,” he said. “I’ve had some stretches way worse than this, so in my mind this is just something that I’ve got to put my foot down and make good pitches, and good things will come. And I truly believe that.”

Fifteen years of major league experience have taught Kimbrel how to navigate through the bad times, how to maintain confidence and develop bounce-back skills. But none of it lessens the work he’s putting in behind the scenes.

“At the same time, I still have to do it. I can’t relax too much,” he said.

“I have to stay focused and do everything I need to do to make it happen.”

Manager Brandon Hyde said Wednesday night that he’s sticking with Kimbrel. He made it clear to the media during his post-game session that he wasn’t considering a different role for the veteran reliever.

“The relationship we’ve had and the conversations we’ve had, if that changes in his mind, I think he’s going to let me know before he tells you all,” Kimbrel said. “So a hundred percent, I expect to get the ball and until that changes and until I pitch my way out of that, I expect to go out there and close out the games every opportunity we get.”

Kimbrel strung together 10 consecutive outings when he didn’t allow an earned run, had back-to-back blown saves against the Athletics and left the second game with upper-back tightness, struck out the side last Friday night in Cincinnati and had to be bailed out in his next two appearances.

“He’s working with our guys on some mechanical things as well as just getting back to being that guy he was in April for us because he’s so big for us,” Hyde said.

* Austin Hays isn’t playing tonight for Double-A Bowie but he’s back in the lineup Saturday for his fourth injury rehab game. 

“I think we’re going to make some decisions after that,” Hyde said.

Hays has played left and right field and served as designated hitter and gone 5-for-10 with a double and two home runs.

“Swinging the bat really well,” Hyde said. “Saw a couple of them, but I talked to some people who have been at the games and he’s running really, really well, so that’s the main thing.”

Hyde also said Arizona starting three right-handers didn’t influence the Orioles’ weekend plans for Hays.

“We’re just kind of evaluating him after every day,” Hyde said.

* Grayson Rodriguez expects his second bullpen session to be held prior to Saturday afternoon’s game. Rodriguez has played catch since Wednesday’s session in D.C.

Hyde raised the possibility of a six-man rotation after Rodriguez returns when the Orioles get into "certain stretches." He mentioned June, with one off-day.

"We're playing some pretty good opponents. So we look at all those things," Hyde said.

"You plan ahead but then it's always in pencil because so many things can happen on a nightly basis that can change. But that's something we'll consider when he comes back, if we're in a stretch where we feel like we need to do that. Last year, we were in a stretch where we needed to do it and we did and for me that saved our season a little bit. Those guys threw the ball extremely well down the stretch because they had that extra day, so we'll see if we're going to do that again. Right now, it's definitely a possibility."

* Triple-A Norfolk’s Connor Norby came out of today’s game as a precaution with a left wrist injury, according to the Orioles. Norby started in left field and was 1-for-2 with an RBI and run scored, and he’s batting .278 with an .859 OPS.

Coby Mayo singled, doubled, hit his 12th home run and committed his ninth error at third base. Billy Cook had a double, triple, four RBIs and three runs scored after three plate appearances in a 12-4 win over Memphis.

Nick Maton was 5-for-6 with two doubles and three RBIs.

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