Kimbrel: Are we watching the next Rivera?

While my son and I were sharing some quality time — watching former Mississippi Brave Craig Kimbrel  finish off the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night, my son said, “Dad you know we are watching the next Mariano Rivera.”

My first reaction: Whoa! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

After further review, Tyler may be onto something. Kimbrell, who pitched in 12 games for the M-Braves here in 2009 during his rapid ascent to Atlanta, has been most Rivera-like.

Just turned 25, he has saved 131 games over three-plus seasons. His earned run average: 1.35. He has struck out 362 batters in just 214 innings. He is striking our 15.2 batters per nine innings.

Furthermore, Kimbrel is the first pitcher in Major League history to save 40 or more games in all his first three full seasons in baseball. His earned run average this year: a ridiculous 1.01. He hasn’t blown a save since May 7.

Now then, let me put on dad’s hat.

Rivera is the best ever. He has averaged 39 saves a season and is in his 19th season., all with the Yankees. At age 42, he has 38 this year. He is one class act.

But my son would counter, correctly: But it took Rivera five full seasons to achieve what Kimbrel has in just three.

There’s no doubt about it: Kimbrel is far ahead of the Rivera’s early pace.

But time will tell if Kimbrel’s shoulder and elbow will hold up to the 98-99 mph fast balls and that evil slider he throws. I will say this: He seems as sturdy as they come. And Fredi Gonzalez, as Bobby Cox before him seems determined not to overwork him.

Again, we shall see.

For the record, Rivera has 646 career saves.

Kimbrel, at 131, has a long way to go. At 25, he should have a long time to get there.

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