DANVLLE - Craig Kimbrel is a two-time all-star closer for the Atlanta Braves. His younger brother Matt is a relief pitcher for the Danville Braves, the organization's Appalachian League rookie-ball affiliate. The two grew up throwing fast balls to each other and one day they could be teammates in the major leagues.
"It makes me work harder because I got some shoes to fill so it makes me want to work harder to get there to be by his side, maybe throw the 8th inning and he throws the 9th inning. It'd be awesome," Matt said.
Craig and Matt are two of the three siblings in the Kimbrel family. They have a younger brother who is a student at the University of Northern Alabama. He does not play baseball.
Craig and Matt played have played on the same team only once when Craig was 13 years old and Matt was 10. They also played what they called "burn out" – a game in which they threw a ball as fast as they could at the other. That game stopped when Craig was 15 and the fast balls were a little too fast. Eleven years later at the age of 26, Craig has topped out at 100 miles per hour. Matt has reached 92. "He's built from the same mold as Craig. He may not throw as hard as him but he's still got the bulldog attitude," Danville manager Jonathan Schuerholz explained.
Some have been critical of Matt saying the only reason he was drafted was because of Craig. Matt disagrees. "They took me because they saw something in me and thought I had the potential to play pro ball," he said.
The two talk and text throughout the week. Craig offers words of encouragement. "He tells me to work has hard as you can so you can be up here with me. That's what I do. Hopefully it happens. You'll have two Uptons in the outfield and two Kimbrels in the bullpen."
After one season with the Gulf Coast Braves, this year Matt is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in three appearances. He has struck out three batters and has walked five in 5.1 innings.