PHOENIX — Craig Kimbrel just couldn’t let it go.
When the Dodgers celebrated National Women’s Day on Aug. 21 by having wives and daughters pick walkup songs performed by women for the players, Craig Kimbrel trotted in from the bullpen to close out a win against the Miami Marlins to the sound of Idina Menzel singing “Let It Go” from the “Frozen” soundtrack.
Kimbrel’s wife, Ashley, and 4-year-old daughter, Lydia, combined on the song choice.
“She knows every word to that song,” Kimbrel said of his daughter. “We listened to that soundtrack a lot this offseason, driving around.”
Lydia is not alone. The song went over big with the Dodger Stadium crowd with many singing along. What went over even bigger was the way Kimbrel pitched – he retired the side in order, something that hadn’t happened very often during the first four months of his season. But it has become routine since then.
In his past seven appearances, Kimbrel has not allowed a hit in 7⅓ innings, striking out six and walking two (though only one of the appearances came in a save situation). Four of those appearances came at home, where Kimbrel has ditched heavy metal (“Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘n’ Roses) for heavy Menzel.
Kimbrel wouldn’t be the first ballplayer unwilling to tamper with a good streak. But he shakes off suggestions that he is superstitious, saying “but I like to keep things the same if they work.”
Told that kind of sounds like a definition of superstitious, Kimbrel disagrees, saying, “No – it’s consistent.”
“Why not?” Kimbrel said of sticking with the new song. “That and I also saw what it did all around. The fans loved it. Guys in the clubhouse loved it. I’m going to keep it because of that.
“Plus – scoreless innings help.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the thing that has really changed is not Kimbrel’s music but his command.
“It’s the breaking ball and being able to have those guys respect it,” Roberts said. “He likes to throw his fastball. It’s a plus-fastball. I think it’s been commanded better. But also he’s been striking the breaking ball more frequently.”
Kimbrel agrees, saying he knew all along that’s what it would take to get his season un-frozen.
“I’m landing my breaking ball,” he said. “I’m getting into counts where I’m ahead. I’m in good counts. That’s really the biggest difference.
“That was all of the things I was working on with my direction, my line (in his delivery). It wasn’t that my breaking ball hasn’t been breaking or hasn’t been hard to hit. It hasn’t been starting on the right line that hitters have to respect. That’s what I’ve been working on. I’ve gotten to the point where it’s in a good spot and I’m going to continue to work on it to make it better.”
As for the song his wife and daughter chose, there could be a message in its title both for Kimbrel and the fans left disgruntled by his performance for much of this season.
“I mean, you can read into it all you want,” he said. “But, no, it’s a beautiful song. My daughter loves it. The fans love it. The guys in the clubhouse love it. So keep it going.”
According to Roberts, both Danny Duffy and Victor Gonzalez have stopped their rehab assignments with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Duffy had flexor tendon surgery last fall. He made seven appearances over the past month, the last four with OKC. But Duffy “just wasn’t bouncing back” between outings, Roberts said.
Gonzalez had debridement surgery on his elbow in May. He made nine appearances on his rehab assignment (eight with OKC), but he was experiencing arm fatigue, according to Roberts.
Reliever Tommy Kahnle completed his rehab assignment with OKC and joined the Dodgers on their taxi squad in Arizona. Roberts said it’s “very possible” Kahnle will be activated during the series in Arizona.
Kahnle returned from Tommy John surgery to make four appearances with the Dodgers in May then went on the injured list with a forearm injury.
Meanwhile, outfielder Kevin Pillar could start a rehab assignment with OKC later this week, according to Roberts. Pillar underwent surgery in June to repair a fracture in his left shoulder socket and is trying to return before the end of the season.
Freddie Freeman was named the National League Player of the Week after getting hits in each of the Dodgers’ six games last week including a four-hit, four-RBI game in San Diego. Freeman was 12 for 22 with three home runs. It was the third time this year he was named Player of the Week. …
Right-hander Michael Grove joined the Dodgers in Arizona and will likely start Wednesday against the Diamondbacks.
Dodgers (LHP Clayton Kershaw, 7-3, 2.62 ERA) at Diamondbacks (RHP Merrill Kelly, 12-5, 2.94 ERA), Tuesday, 6:40 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM