Kolb Getting Comfortable as Atlanta's Closer

With John Smoltz moving into Atlanta's starting rotation, new closer Dan Kolb immediately became one of the most important members of the Braves roster. BravesCenter's Skip Seda spoke with Kolb Friday night about his impressive first week in an Atlanta uniform.

He had already saved the last two games, but Friday night's save was a bit more special for Dan Kolb. You had to know he wanted to make a good first impression on the home folks. Fans may have known his name, but when you're replacing an icon like John Smoltz as the Braves' closer, you want to make a name for yourself by doing well.

"I felt good," Kolb admitted. "That was pretty close to the adrenaline I had in Florida my first time out. The crowd brings it to you. Being here…I can't describe it right now. It's hard to think about with the crowd, the atmosphere, and the team, just everything. It's going to take a while to tone down the adrenaline and get used to it."

Forgive Kolb if he has to pinch himself a bit. He's gone from being on a team in Milwaukee that would occasionally not need a closer for a week to the closer for the most successful franchise in baseball over the past decade and a half.

"There's just something about being here," Kolb said. "Driving to the park or getting on the bus to ride to the park it's not like walking on the bus and saying, 'You know what, I think we've got a chance to win today.' Instead, it's getting on the bus and saying, 'You know we're going to kick their ass today.' That's the difference."

Kolb says it didn't take him long to realize the huge difference between the Braves and Brewers. He knew from the first day he put on an Atlanta uniform that this was a team that expected to win every, single game.

"You walk into this clubhouse and, from the day I walked into spring training, that was the feeling," Kolb explained. "There was nobody going, 'Rah, rah, rah.' It was laid back. You know what we've got to do. We're going to win this season. We're just going to get it done. There weren't any big speeches or anything; it was just, 'we're here to do business.'"

Kolb came to Atlanta with little fanfare, but that was mainly due to the small market he played in with the Brewers. If the Braves had acquired a pitcher that had 39 saves for a team in New York or Los Angeles, there would have been more publicity. But even though he's assumed a role with a more successful organization, he's still doing the same thing.

"As far as my job, there is no difference," Kolb explained. "My job is to get three outs. That's my job. But everything else other than my job, coming to a team with the history that this one has, and then you're replacing the guy on the team that is still here, but with the history he has, most of it is just little things that add up."

Like many pitchers that come to Atlanta, Kolb expects the success of other pitchers have might rub off on him just a bit. He can already tell that he's learning a lot from watching the other members of the Braves' staff.

"I'll tell you our starters are tough as hell," Kolb said. "The way they are pitching and getting double plays and keeping the ball in the park guys are coming in and they're not getting over-extended too much and they're getting the job done. Our starters are setting the tone with the way they are pitching and hitting, getting guys out, and getting double plays."

Kolb already has two strikeouts in his three innings of work, which is a much better ratio than what he had last season with the Brewers when he struck out only 21 batters in 57.1 innings of work. But some adjustments in his delivery could see him become a strikeout pitcher once again this season.

"That's enough for this month," Kolb joked. "That'll get me through this month. Tonight I came out and I had my fastball working. My arm was a little tired, so I had to concentrate a little more and spot the ball and I got them one, two, three, and that's how it's supposed to go."

The new Braves' closer is learning how things are supposed to go in Atlanta: this team wins and wins a lot. Kolb believes the fan support will also be an advantage, based on the reaction he got Friday night in his home debut.

"After two outs, you hear the crowd a little bit," said Kolb. "I couldn't see how many seats were open or how many seats were filled; I just didn't pay attention. When you get two outs, you get that energy. I felt it tonight. I was starting to get tired. My arm was tired. I could feel the energy that they bring to the game and you can keep going with that. They are a big part of what happens in the ninth and a big part of what happens in our rallies. A couple of people have told me that they were spoiled. I guess that's how they put it: that some of the fans are spoiled. But I came in tonight and I didn't see it or feel any of that. I came in and they were rooting pretty good, and that kept me going."

If Dan Kolb keeps getting three saves a week, Braves fans will be rooting for him a lot this season.

Skip Seda can be heard on regularly on WRCG AM 1420 in Columbus, Georgia talking about the Braves and his reports can be read regularly this season on BravesCenter.com.

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