When the Dodgers signed right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle to a 2-year, $4.75 million deal in late 2020, they did it knowing that he would likely be unavailable for the 2021 season. Kahnle, 32, underwent Tommy John surgery in August of 2020 after appearing in just one game for the Yankees that season.
A few days after tossing 20 pitches against the Nationals on July 26, an MRI revealed that Kahnle had suffered damage to his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow that would require Tommy John surgery. There was a slim chance that Kahnle would be ready to make his Dodgers debut towards the end of the 2021 season, but unfortunately, he couldn’t make a full recovery in time.
Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts put an end to any speculation that Kahnle would pitch in 2021 after telling media that Kahnle’s “rehab timetable had changed” and that he had only progressed to playing catch in the spring of last year.
With Spring Training right around the corner, the question is: what role will Tommy Kahnle fill for LA next season? For starters, Kahnle is confident that he will return to where he was physically before the elbow injury. He said as much to the LA Times last year.
“Everyone seems to think I’ll be right back to where I was before it. The way medicine today is and everything, they get you basically back to where you were. So, I’m not worried about the rehab and getting back to where I was before. So, I believe, maybe, I’ll throw harder, if not the same.”
Even if Kahnle doesn’t see an uptick in his fastball velocity upon his return to action, if he can get close to where he was, he could eventually find himself in the mix to take over as the Dodgers’ closer at some point next season.
Tommy Kahnle Update! Should Kahnle Be Dodgers New Closer, What to Expect From Him in 2022!
Kahnle was one of the game’s elite relievers in 2016 and 2017, where he held a combined 2.60 ERA across 90 innings for the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. After a down 2018, his 2019 was huge for a Yankees team that made it to the ALCS.
“King Kahn” combined a plus four-seam fastball that averaged over 98 mph to go along with a filthy changeup and slider. Since 2016, Kahnle has posted a 3.64 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 35.2 K%, (14th MLB), 16.9 swinging-strike rate (8th), 33.7% chase rate outside of the zone. So, Kahnle has the swing-and-miss type of stuff that could make him an intriguing candidate to become the Dodgers closer at some point next season if Kenley Jansen signs elsewhere. However, coming back from Tommy John surgery is always a mixed bag, and every pitcher’s road to a full recovery is different.
Yes, Kahnle could hit the ground running in 2022 and quickly re-establish himself as one of the game’s better high-leverage relievers, but realistically speaking, having a more patient approach with Kahnle will likely lead to a more sustainable year for him in 2022. While the potential is there for Kahnle to be LA’s next closer, we would like first to see him progress towards returning to being a trusted high-leverage reliever before considering giving him the role. We discuss what to expect from Tommy Kahnle next season and the possibility of making him LA’s closer at some point next season. Plus, why Tommy Kahnle chose to sign with the Dodgers over the Red Sox in 2020.
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