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Tony La Russa Pulled Craig Kimbrel in the 8th Inning … for a Match-Up Lefty?

Chicago Cubs

The White Sox’s continued misuse of Craig Kimbrel is something I just can’t let go. I’m not trying to be petty about it, both because I don’t *hate* the White Sox and also because it’s not like Craig Kimbrel was a lifer Cub. But it’s just really grinding my gears to see a guy who was the best reliever in baseball, and a Hall-of-Fame-bound closer, not being used as the closer after the July 31 trade.

And now, it’s even worse. Kimbrel, who was asked to pitch the 8th inning last night with a two-run lead, was wild to start his outing, walking the first batter, and then throwing three balls to the next. But he got a lineout from the next guy, and then struck out the next guy. But with lefty Brandon Lowe coming up, Tony La Russa elected to come out and remove Kimbrel in favor of Aaron Bummer, a lefty. Like, a traditional pull-the-righty-for-the-lefty move. With *CRAIG KIMBREL.*

As you would expect, Kimbrel was not happy about it:

After the game, which the White Sox won in 11 innings despite Bummer having blown it in the 8th, at least La Russa knew he’d screwed up. He tried to explain it as a human decision (The Athletic):

While there were plenty of handedness-dominated decisions in the final innings, as Kimbrel threw seven straight balls to begin the eighth inning, bounced a wild pitch that pushed Manuel Margot to third, La Russa revealed he was filled less with thoughts about matchups or release points, but concern about him personally. Kimbrel had not pitched in three days, primarily because he had left the team Wednesday for the death of his grandfather. This was his first outing since returning.

“It’s unfair to him,” La Russa said he kept thinking to himself, prompting his pitching change even when Kimbrel was one out from a recovery and escape. “But I think what’s worst than being unfair is not showing confidence. I’d be hard-pressed to think about winning a great game and enjoying it less than I do right now.”

Better than thinking it was the right decision, but still. I cannot wrap my head around how the White Sox have used Kimbrel, and if I’m him, I’m now worried about what 2022 will bring. Recall, he’s got a team option for next year, and with Liam Hendriks still under contract – and Tony La Russa presumably returning to manage – I wonder if a trade is going to be a strong preference.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.