Diamondbacks’ Kevin Ginkel has no problem if asked to close in Paul Sewald’s absence

Mar 26, 2024, 2:29 PM

Kevin Ginkel...

Kevin Ginkel #37 of the Arizona Diamondbacks reacts after their 16-13 win over the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on July 18, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks setup man Kevin Ginkel has not been told whether he will step into the closer role with Paul Sewald starting the year on the injured list with an oblique strain.

But Ginkel is the logical choice manager Torey Lovullo alluded — but didn’t commit — to. The righty enjoyed the opportunities that came his way last year in the ninth inning.

“When I go out there, I’ve got a job to do, so I never want to put pressure on myself,” Ginkel said. “For me, I was excited and eager for the opportunities to close when I got it. I try and be the same guy and go out there and do my job.”

Ginkel picked up his first four career saves in a breakout 2023 campaign, including the 16-13 marathon win over the Atlanta Braves in the fourth game of the year. He went viral that same series for walking Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. back to third base after a big lead.

“Is that the Atlanta game where he stepped off the mound and tried to go beat somebody up at third base?” Lovullo joked.

Ginkel was a fiery competitor in high-leverage situations, one who wasn’t shy about firing up the crowd in the postseason.

In Ginkel’s eyes, he and Sewald fed off each other well once the D-backs traded for the closer, and Sewald expressed his confidence in Ginkel’s ability to take the reins if he is the choice.

“He’s just one of those guys: when the lights are brightest, he is the best,” Sewald said. “So if he’s going to be the one piece, I think I have absolutely no issues that the team is going to finish the game with a win. I hope he gets out there as many times as possible in my absence.”

Ginkel had a slow start to camp with right elbow soreness, but the right-hander felt sharp by the end of Cactus League play, as he allowed one run in five innings with six punch outs.

His goal is to be aggressive in the zone, get ahead and not hesitate to challenge hitters inside. Ginkel felt he succeeded with that this spring, but the rush of entering a regular season game with all the scouting that goes into it makes the experience different.

“It’s going to change a little bit now since these games matter and I’ll have a gameplan on what I want to do and how I want to get guys out,” Ginkel said. “Mentally I’m in a great spot and I’m executing really well. So we’re just gonna keep going.

“I feel like the last three or four games I pitched have been really good. So gonna try and stay there and bring that intensity and energy each time to go out.”

Sewald will be out weeks, not days, as Lovullo put it after suffering a Grade 2 strain.

Lovullo did not want to name a closer and have to backtrack if something had to change, but that role was trending in Ginkel’s direction last year before the deadline.

Ginkel dominated the second half with a 2.25 ERA and 2.42 FIP after coming back to the major leagues from Triple-A Reno on July 27. Opponents hit .159 against him in innings 7-9.

His ascension aided the bullpen’s swift improvements down the stretch, and he believes the group is overlooked entering the year.

“I think that should add some fuel to the fire going into this year,” Ginkel said.

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Diamondbacks’ Kevin Ginkel has no problem if asked to close in Paul Sewald’s absence