After a roller-coaster 2021 season, veteran reliever Craig Kimbrel is currently slated to stay put with the Chicago White Sox for the upcoming 2022 campaign.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa was asked on Saturday on whether he expects Kimbrel to be on the opening day roster next month, and he was as straightforward as he could be regarding this matter.

“Yes,” La Russa said.

“I was really encouraged that when Kenny [Williams] and Rick [Hahn] first talked to Craig and his agent. He really likes it here. He really likes closing. I like the first part a lot because I had him in Boston. He’s a first class person. A real family guy. He fit in very well with our team.”

The White Sox acquired Kimbrel ahead of last year’s MLB trade deadline after his standout first half of the season with the Chicago Cubs, where he recorded 23 saves, posted a 0.49 ERA, and earned an All-Star nod for the eighth time in his career.

The White Sox opted to hand over the set-up man role to Kimbrel, and the experiment did not go as planned. He notched a 5.09 ERA in 24 regular season games for the reigning AL Central champions, as control issues marred his run with the team in the second half of the campaign.

For La Russa, there was at the least one silver lining from this experiment last season, which centered on the fact that Kimbrel did log a fair share of innings pitched in what was a new role for him at this stage in his career.

“If he’s here, the fact that he had the experience last year making that transition, he’s had to deal with how different that is,” La Russa said. “All I know is, when we got him, he was as good as any closer in baseball.”

In the unpredictable world of baseball, anything can still happen in the coming weeks in regard to Kimbrel’s future with the White Sox. The longtime reliever is due $16 million for this season.

If the White Sox decide to part ways with Kimbrel ahead of the season, the likes of new signings Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly may be options for La Russa to take hold of the set-up man role.