As the Chicago White Sox begin Spring Training workouts, initial plans for the season are coming together. One of the biggest question marks following the 2021 campaign surrounded reliever Craig Kimbrel. After the White Sox picked up his option in October, trade speculation was prominent. Manager Tony La Russa seemed to dispel that notion Saturday by saying he expects Kimbrel to be on the Opening Day roster and back in the same role.
Kimbrel endured what felt like two separate seasons in 2021. During an All-Star first half with the Cubs, he owned a 0.49 ERA, 0.709 WHIP, and a 15.7 K/9 rate across 36.2 innings. Following the trade deadline, he had a 5.09 ERA, 1.217 WHIP, and allowed five home runs in 23 innings with the Sox.
Despite Kimbrel's struggles upon switching sides of town, the White Sox will apparently give it another go. However, La Russa saying the righty "really likes closing" opens the door to questions. Kimbrel served in more of a hybrid role and recorded just one save with the South Siders.
So what will it be? Can Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks play off each other to form the two-headed bullpen monster the White Sox thought they were getting last year? Will La Russa be more willing to utilize Kimbrel as a closer in 2022? If it doesn't work out in the early going, would the White Sox entertain trading the future Hall of Famer?
Only time and games played will provide the answers to those questions. But for the time being, Tony La Russa fully expects Kimbrel to be on the Chicago White Sox Opening Day roster.