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MLB NOTEBOOK: Kimbrel struggling as he leaves Braves for WBC; Posey ranked MLB's top catcher

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel ended up with a 6.75 ERA in his four outings this spring before leaving for the WBC, allowing five hits and five walks.

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel ended up with a 6.75 ERA in his four outings this spring before leaving for the WBC, allowing five hits and five walks.

Craig Kimbrel struck out the last two men he faced last week before heading off to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, but the Atlanta Braves closer had hardly been having his usual success before then.

“If I hadn’t finished the way I did, I wouldn’t feel too good about it,” Kimbrel said after escaping a bases-loaded jam without more damage last Saturday against Houston. “But I do now. It all just clicked and came to me at a pretty good time.”

That was good news for Team USA and the Braves. Kimbrel is very important to both.

The Braves were hardly unhappy when starter Kris Medlen changed his mind about pitching in the WBC and withdrew. They remain concerned about Kimbrel, who has saved 88 games the past two seasons.

“I hope he comes back in one piece,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

The Braves were worried about Kimbrel trying to do too much too soon in preparation for the WBC — and that appeared to be the case.

Kimbrel allowed runs in the last three of his four Grapefruit League appearances before departing, giving up a home run and struggling with his control.

The hard-throwing right-hander walked two, hit a batter and allowed a RBI single before recovering against the Astros and getting the two strikeouts.

Kimbrel ended up with a 6.75 ERA in his four outings, allowing five hits and five walks. He had just one strikeout until the final two against the Astros.


PALM BEACH POST RANKS POSEY AS LEAGUE'S TOP CATCHER:

Buster Posey, Giants: The 2012 NL MVP and Leesburg native is an offensive machine but threw out just 30 percent of base stealers. Leading NL with a .336 average makes up for that.

Yadier Molina, Cardinals: Has no peers with glove or throwing out runners. Because of his improved hitting, he is challenging Posey.

Joe Mauer, Twins: The former MVP and three-time batting champion has slipped because of injuries. No longer a full-time catcher, Mauer will see action at first.

Matt Wieters, Orioles: Not in Molina’s class defensively, but improving. Has nice power numbers with 45 homer the last two years but average slipped to .249 in 2012.

Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks: Has improved defensively, throwing out 42 percent of base stealers last year while hitting .286 with 15 homers and 88 RBI.

— McClatchy News Service