Kimbrel soaking in 422nd save and drying souvenir baseball that came with it

KANSAS CITY – The overflow locker next to Craig Kimbrel held the usual items this morning – a suitcase, a couple of backpacks and some hoodies on hangers. Sitting on the top shelf, however, was a rarity. Maybe a first for the 15-year veteran.

A plastic container filled with uncooked rice.

This isn’t part of a special diet. The grains covered the baseball from last night’s 422nd career save that tied Kimbrel with Billy Wagner for seventh place on the all-time list.

Left fielder Colton Cowser caught a fly ball to seal a 9-7 win and chucked it over his shoulder and into the iconic fountain at Kauffman Stadium. Or, “yeeted it,” as he sheepishly told the media afterward.

Cowser figured out his mistake almost immediately and stadium workers retrieved the soaked baseball. There were two at the bottom. The fresher one was identified as belonging to Kimbrel.

“That’s fun, huh?” Kimbrel said. “We’re sitting here talking about it now, so it makes it fun. It doesn’t bother me much. I think he went and fished it out.”

Attempts to dry it with a towel failed. Cowser stuck it in Kimbrel’s locker – the closer was in the weight room and rushing to leave with family – and rice was deemed the solution because it supposedly draws out moisture.

Apple warned consumers this year to stop trying it if their phones get wet. Not good for electronics. But the company said nothing about baseballs.

“It wasn’t in there when I left last night, so I think they’re working on it,” Kimbrel said.

“It’s fun. It doesn’t bother me none. We’ll see what the authenticators think here. We’ll be talking to them in a little bit.”

Cowser joked about the incident at his locker but he definitely had a panic moment.

“There was some hurt,” Kimbrel said. “I could tell he was a little distraught about it and I told him not to worry about it too much and not to lose sleep. It doesn’t bother me any. But it’s fun. We’re sitting here talking about it right now.”

Kimbrel and Wagner were teammates in Atlanta in 2010. Kimbrel was a rookie. Wagner was wrapping up a stellar career that’s gotten him closer to Hall of Fame election. He missed by five votes for 2024 induction.

“It’s definitely special,” Kimbrel said. “I was speaking on it the other day, just the fact, sit back and think about it. Someone I looked up to as a kid, got to play with. And now, we’re sitting here with the same amount of saves. It’s something to think about. So it’s pretty cool.”

Wagner was a role model for Kimbrel, preaching dedication to his craft and the importance of watching the game.

“Seeing what you can pick up as the game’s going on, or really pick up during an at-bat and making adjustments. Learning yourself, learning your own adjustments. I guess just showing up ready to go every day,” said Kimbrel, who lowered his ERA to 1.00 and WHIP to 0.333 with his eighth scoreless outing in a row.

“Thinking back, one of the things that impressed me, coming in, even when he picked up the ball to play catch he was there to work. He was ready to put the time in. Obviously, he enjoyed it, but he definitely showed the intensity needed to play this game for a long time. And I was very appreciative at a young age to be able to see that.”

The Orioles led 7-0 in the second inning and 8-3 in the seventh. Kimbrel appeared to have the night off until the Royals crept within 8-7 in the bottom of the seventh.

“I think in this game, part of it is kind of staying in it,” he said. “You never know what might happen in this game. Sometimes, the most difficult part is looking up and seeing an eight- or nine-run game, not thinking you’re going to have any chances to get in it, and all of a sudden, there you are. It’s kind of a reminder of the importance of staying locked in. No matter what inning it is or what the circumstances are, there’s an opportunity that the game could be close at the end.”

Kimbrel has faced only three batters in seven of his last eight appearances. He’s walked none and struck out 14. And he’s having a blast at age 35, blending with his young teammates but also providing leadership in the bullpen.

“They’re just fun. And I keep saying it over and over again, but they’re very talented,” Kimbrel said.

“The game figures you out and you figure the game out consistently throughout your career, especially after your first year, going into your second and third. Those are years where there’s the battle between your talent and everyone trying to figure you out, and that’s a fun time to watch guys grow in the game. We have a lot of guys doing that and they’re coming out on the strong side of it, so that’s cool to see.”

The ball on the top shelf is getting warmer and drier, but there’s more work to do before he can display it at home.

“I don’t know, there’s a lot of water that needs to come out of there,” Kimbrel said, “so we’ll see what happens.”

* Kyle Bradish makes his second rehab start, and first with Triple-A Norfolk, this afternoon in Jacksonville. He tossed three scoreless innings with one out allowed at Double-A Bowie.

* Grayson Rodriguez is being pushed back a day for the upcoming series in Anaheim. Albert Suárez stays on regular rest after tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday afternoon.

Rodriguez hasn’t started since Tuesday, putting him on six days’ rest. The switch, however, lines him up to face the Yankees at Camden Yards following the series against the Athletics.

Monday: RHP Albert Suárez vs. LHP Reid Detmers
Tuesday: RHP Grayson Rodriguez vs. RHP Griffin Canning
Wednesday: RHP Dean Kremer vs. LHP Tyler Anderson

O's game blog: The series finale at Kansas City
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