Los Angeles Dodgers could make a change in ninth inning

Sep 14, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the tenth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 14, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the tenth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /
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Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has resisted taking Craig Kimbrel out of the closer role. Now he may not have a choice in the matter.

Kimbrel had gone nearly a month without allowing a run before imploding in a loss on September 14. Including that outing, he has allowed five runs, four earned, on three hits and two walks in his 3.2 innings, giving up two homers in that time frame. After seemingly turning the page, he has begun to struggle once more.

Los Angeles Dodgers may be forced into ninth inning change

Those struggles are starting to be a concern as the Dodgers head into the postseason. Roberts was as non-committal as he had been all season about Kimbrel remaining in the closer role, noting that not only did his stuff begin to backslide, but they need their best at this time of year.

At this point, that may not be Kimbrel. With the exception of his stellar first half in 2021, it has been years since he was that dominant closer a playoff team needs. This leaves the Dodgers in a bind as the postseason is not the best time to be experimenting in the ninth inning, but they may not have a choice.

Roberts may have a backup plan in mind. Chris Martin notched the save on Tuesday and could step into the ninth inning if need be. There are possible concerns there as well; while he has posted a stellar 1.71 ERA and a 0.524 WHiP in his 21 innings since being acquired from the Cubs, striking out 26 batters with just one walk. However, he has just nine career saves in the majors and is far from a proven option in the ninth.

This could also be an opportunity for the Dodgers to give their future an opportunity as well. Brusdar Graterol has been viewed as a closer in waiting and could get more of a look in the ninth. He does have three saves this season, but like Martin, is not a given.

In an ideal world, Kimbrel would right the ship over the next two weeks and be ready to be a dominant force in the postseason. That is also not something the Dodgers can count on. They need to find another option for the closer role now before it is too late and Kimbrel torpedoes their playoff run.

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The Los Angeles Dodgers cannot count on Craig Kimbrel at this point. The time has come to find another option for the ninth inning.