With Craig Kimbrel the newest member of the Boston Red Sox, there was, for about an hour there, some small question of how the roles would work out in the bullpen. After all, Koji Uehara, when healthy, has been the Red Sox' closer since taking control of the role in 2013. And Craig Kimbrel is Craig Kimbrel, which kind of sums up his claim on the spot.
Consider the uncertainty over. Dave Dombrowski addressed the issue in a conference call shortly after the trade, and Craig Kimbrel is the closer. Koji Uehara finds himself back in the eighth inning--a role Dombrowski says John Farrell ran past Uehara before the trigger was pulled.
Koji, of course, was fine with it, because Koji is Koji and if it seems like I'm going to the "X is X" well a bit too much it's because it really does feel pretty self-explanatory. Really, though, "eighth inning guy" might be a bit too specific a designation for Uehara. He's up there in age, and the Red Sox will be looking to keep his workload as low as possible, which means they'll also be looking to maximize the innings he does have in him.
That probably means something closer to a Fireman's role. Yes, his default will be the eighth inning in close games, but with Junichi Tazawa (and perhaps another addition?) around to keep things under wrap for the eighth, Uehara seems like the obvious man to call on in a bases loaded emergency in the sixth, say. Having Kimbrel in at closer gives the Red Sox the freedom to move their second shutdown arm around where he's needed, and also to keep him out of silly three-run games that the closer role sometimes dictates wasting him on.
And once Koji and Tazawa and whoever else have done their work, Craig Kimbrel will be there to package the game up for the ninth as he has done hundreds of times before. There was no wrong choice here, but there was an obvious one, and this is it. The torch is passed, even while the old torchbearer remains.
But you know what really matters more than anything else? Koji Uehara pitching in the eighth (or seventh, or sixth) means he gets to head back into the dugout and brutally assault his teammates in celebration. Nobody is safe.