Meet Tommy Kahnle: The New Colorado Rockies’ Closer


June 26, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies catcher N. Hundley (left) and relief pitcher T. Kahnle (right) celebrate after defeating the San Francisco Giants 8-6 at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The man who just earned his first big league save showed you Friday night why he has the right stuff to close games for the Colorado Rockies.

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You’re not a dumb person (you’re smart enough to visit this website!).

And I’m not a dumb person (I write for this esteemed site, after all).

So let’s discuss what smart people saw Friday night in Washington: Tommy Kahnle is filthy and should be closing games for the Colorado Rockies the rest of the season.

Yeah, now that we got that (obvious) thing out of the way — since we knew John Axford probably wasn’t going to get another shot to close, and Rex Brothers ain’t coming up from AAA to magically start throwing more strikes than balls — let’s look at why Kahnle matters.

Adam Ottavino will be back soon-ish; based on the recovery for elbow reconstruction surgeries — especially for relievers — it’d be a safe bet to expect him back in the middle of next season. (It’s still way too early to put a timetable on recovery, so just a guess.) And assuming he does what he’d been doing before he was injured, the closer’s gig is probably his to lose.

Until then, though, enter Tommy Kahnle. Armed with a two-seam fastball that averages 95.4 mph, and a filthy 87 mph change-up that drops off the table, yeah, I’d say he’s got closer stuff. Oh, and the mentality to whiff Bryce Harper on a changeup for the final out of Friday night’s save (his first in the big leagues!).

After starting the season in Albuquerque, he’s done well for a few months in Denver. In his last 12 games — 10.2 innings — Kahnle has allowed only one earned run while striking out 13 batters and giving up just 7 hits and 5 walks. He’s clearly going to get more opportunities to close games, at least in 2015 — and he should.

Look, this isn’t about suddenly anointing Kahnle as the Rockies’ lockdown reliever of the future just because he now has one career save. It’s more about understanding that the Rockies made a shrewd and smart choice in the Rule 5 Draft before 2014 to bring Kahnle to Denver, and he is clearly developing into the power reliever the team thought he’d become.

Maybe he’ll fail miserably and blow his next three saves, and we’ll be back to square one on finishing games the rest of the year. Maybe Ottavino never regains his form after the elbow surgery, and Kahnle records multiple 40+ save seasons over the next few years in Denver. Likely, something in between those two extremes will happen.

Either way, Kahnle has the stuff and make up to throw late innings in the big leagues. Whether that means the 7th, 8th, or 9th is to be determined — but it certainly means that at least one of the 2016 bullpen spots in Colorado is being earned right now.

Now, just imagine Ottavino in the ninth, and Kahnle and a good Rex Brothers (the 2011-13 version) splitting the seventh and eighth. A man can dream…

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