FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) The Red Sox are counting on Craig Kimbrel to quickly get comfortable in the hitter-friendly American League.
Boston needs the closer who thrived in the National League to improve a bullpen that recorded more saves than just 10 other clubs last season, a reflection of its second-consecutive last place finish.
Kimbrel is 19-12 with a 1.63 ERA and 225 saves in six seasons between Atlanta and San Diego. He recorded 39 saves in 61 games last season for the Padres after being traded in early April.
''Craig is a proven, elite closer,'' said Red Sox manager John Farrell. ''In getting to have some understanding of him, I think he'll thrive on the energy that is Fenway (Park). After spending a year on the West Coast, I think he's truly looking forward to being back on the East Coast.''
Kimbrel said he's not fazed by American League parks that favor hitters, especially Fenway.
''I really don't think much about the parks,'' Kimbrel said. ''Obviously, there are times you give up a ball off the barrel and you think, `I'm glad I was in this ballpark, otherwise it would be gone.' But I really don't take that mindset out there. I just focus on my pitches because I felt like if I execute my game plan, it really doesn't matter which ballpark I'm in.''
Koji Uehara, who had been Boston's closer since taking over the role midway through the 2013 season, had 25 saves in 27 opportunities last season, despite having his season cut short by a fractured right wrist when he was hit with a line drive on Aug. 7.
But beyond Uehara's health, he will turn 41 on April 3. That's why new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski targeted the team's back end of the bullpen for upgrades in the offseason. Dombrowksi shipped away four prospects to San Diego in November to bring in Kimbrel, who led the National League in saves from 2011-2014.
Uehara gave his approval to the offseason trade and will drop down to the eighth inning. Farrell thinks the contrasting styles of the two pitchers should benefit both. Kimbrel's fastball registers in the upper 90s and he has hit triple digits on radar guns. Uehara, on the other hand, fools hitters with his beguiling splitter, which rarely breaks 90.
''They're going to see a lot of different angles before I get a chance to come in,'' Kimbrel said. ''The game of pitching is deception, it doesn't really matter how hard you throw. If you're not deceptive, you're going to get hit.''
While some closers have difficulty pitching in non-save situations, without the intensity to amp them up, Farrell is not worried about Uehara's ability to adjust.
''You look at what Koji's done when he's not been a closer,'' Farrell said. ''It's probably equal to what he was as a closer. Koji's the true definition of a very good pitcher.''
Uehara is expected to be out of camp for several days with an illness. ... Left-hander Edwin Escobar could be out for a week. He is currently quarantined and on medication with flu-like symptoms, manager John Farrell said.