At first, the Nationals said they had planned to ease right-hander Cole Kimball into pressure situations, giving the 25-year-old time to adapt to the major leagues before they made him an integral part of their bullpen.
But Kimball has pitched well enough, and the Nationals have played enough close games, that they've been forced to change their minds quickly. He has worked the last three games, pitching in the ninth inning with the Nationals trailing by a run on Saturday and working with a four-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday.
On Monday night, Kimball found himself in the game in the seventh inning with the Nationals up a run. He allowed an inherited runner to score on Andrew McCutchen's triple but held the Pirates without another run and kept the game tied, eventually getting the win when Danny Espinosa homered in the bottom of the seventh.
The way the Nationals use Kimball could change the makeup of their bullpen, too. When they got Henry Rodriguez in the Josh Willingham trade in December, general manager Mike Rizzo said the 24-year-old could compete for time as a setup man or closer. But as Rodriguez has struggled with his control, the Nationals have been reluctant to use him in tight situations.
Instead, it could be Kimball that pushes his way into the Nationals' late inning mix. The way the team has used him in his first three games, he certainly seems headed that way.
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