Craig Kimbrel proves Orioles wrong in the worst way Monday night

The Baltimore Orioles signed Craig Kimbrel to a one-year, $13 million contract for 2024, hoping he could fill in for injured closer Felix Bautista. His first showing as the Orioles closer was quite poor.

Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles
Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

One of the key moves made this past offseason by the Baltimore Orioles was the signing of veteran right-hander Craig Kimbrel.

Closer Felix Bautista is still injured, and the Orioles were hoping that Kimbrel could fill the void in 2024. Bautista is expected to miss the entire season after undergoing multiple surgeries on his elbow.

Kimbrel had his first showing as the Orioles closer on Monday night against the Kansas City Royals and had a chance to earn a save. But the Royals fought back to tie the game and Kimbrel blew his first save opportunity of the 2024 season.

Fortunately, Jordan Westburg bailed him out and hit a walk-off two-run homer to send the Orioles to their third win of the season.

Craig Kimbrel saved by Orioles, Jordan Westburg after ninth inning implosion

It was Maikel Garcia who drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly. Two stolen bases also didn't help Kimbrel's cause, though he was able to strike out Bobby Witt Jr.

But the veteran closer is fortunate that Westburg was there to bail him out and came through in the clutch. It's safe to say that Kimbrel's first showing as the closer of the Orioles was quite poor. The team needs him to fill Bautista's shoes, and he can still certainly do that. But if Monday's outing was any indication, the Orioles are certainly going to miss their All-Star closer.

Fortunately for Kimbrel, he was at least able to collect his first win as a member of the Orioles, but that would not have been the case if Westburg hadn't come through.

Baltimore is going to need Kimbrel to step up after Monday's tough outing and hold down the fort late in games until Bautista comes back from his injury. The right-hander and All-Star closer has been out since late August of last year after suffering a UCL injury.

The Orioles improved to 3-1 on the season with their walk-off win over the Royals. They sit in second place in the American League East, 1.5 games back of the New York Yankees, who are off to a blazing 5-0 start.

We'll see if Kimbrel can improve following a tough outing. A strong track record precedes him, and he had a solid 2023 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, going 8-6 with a 3.26 ERA. The 35-year-old will get plenty more chances as the season progresses.