Baltimore Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel became one of the most decorated closers of all time after achieving new career milestones. With Félix Bautista sidelined, Baltimore’s front office signed the veteran reliever to close out games for the club this season. The 35-year-old hasn’t been lighting up the radar gun in his first outings with Baltimore, but he hasn’t needed to. His command has improved and the spin rates on his four-seam and knuckle curve are nearing career highs. Only six innings into his Orioles tenure he’s become one of the most decorated closers of all time.

When Kimbrel closed out the Orioles 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 5, the nine-time All-Star made history. His first save with the Orioles marked the eighth different team Kimbrel has recorded a regular-season save for. According to MLB Stats, he’s now tied for the second-most all-time. Adding in his latest save for the Orioles on Sunday, Kimbrel now has 420 career saves. His 420 career saves rank eighth all-time and second among active players trailing only Kenley Jansen with 424.

Orioles Closer Craig Kimbrel Climbs List of Elite Closers

Kimbrel gave up one hit to Kyle Isbel in his Orioles debut and retired 15 batters without a hit before allowing two singles on Sunday.

“1-2-3 feels good every time,” said Kimbrel, who has 11 strikeouts in six innings this season.

He is one of six pitchers in major league history to record 1,000 strikeouts without a single career start. On Thursday, Kimbrel became the first and only pitcher to reach 1,200 strikeouts without a career start. Including his three strikeouts on Sunday, Kimbrel has struck out 1,203 batters throughout his 15-year career in the majors. Kimbrel’s 980 career ninth-inning strikeouts is the MLB record for most career strikeouts in a given inning.

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Kimbrel’s Save History

Kimbrel began his career with the Atlanta Braves in 2010, becoming their full-time closer in 2011. In his rookie season, Kimbrel’s 46 saves set the MLB record for most saves by a rookie. He was named an All-Star and was awarded the National League Rookie of the Year in 2011. Kimbrel led the National League in saves for four consecutive seasons (2011-14) and is a two-time Reliever of the Year. While in Boston, Kimbrel won the World Series and became the youngest pitcher in MLB history to record 300 career saves.

Even though his velocity isn’t what it was early in his 15-year career, Kimbrel is still one of the league’s best closers. He has yet to walk a batter and has given up just one run in six appearances with the Orioles. Craig Kimbrel is one of baseball’s most accomplished pitchers and has been a worthy replacement for the injured Bautista.

“I’m happy with how it’s playing,” Kimbrel said. “Right now, I’m just out there pitching, and I’m trying to miss bats still, no matter what the velocity is. I mean, I’m getting guys out with spin. Overall, the way the ball is coming out of my hand, I like it.”

Main Photo: © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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