Kimbrel inching toward regular-season form

Kimbrel inching toward regular-season form

TAMPA, Fla. -- Craig Kimbrel struggled in two of his first three appearances this spring. But while completing a pair of scoreless appearances against the Yankees this week, the hard-throwing right-hander gained confidence that he's where he needs to be a little less than three weeks before the start of the regular season.

"I'm at a point where I do feel good," Kimbrel said. "With every outing, I'm going to get better. I expect to get better. That's not Spring Training. That's every game that I play. That's my goal. It doesn't matter if it's here in spring or in September."

Since allowing six hits and four runs in the 2 1/3 innings over his first three appearances, Kimbrel has found better command of his offspeed pitches, and he's shown that he can battle back after falling behind in the count.

During Friday's outing, he issued Austin Krum a leadoff walk and rebounded with a strikeout. With Krum on third and two outs, Kimbrel fell behind Addison Maruszak with a 2-0 count, but got him to produce an inning-ending groundout.

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"It's nice to see he can make an adjustment, whether mechanically or whatever it is, and throw strikes," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are the top candidates to begin the season in the closer's role. Venters, who has allowed just one hit in five scoreless innings this year, is scheduled for one inning against the Mets on Saturday.