J.J. Putz needs to stop serving up home runs in the 9th inning. Image: Ed Szczepanski
It is hard to tell what to make of the recent Arizona Diamondbacks road trip which saw them go 4-5 in three different cities. The starting pitching yielded no more than four runs in any game against the Colorado Rockies at the hitting haven known as Coors Field yet the team lost two out of three. The D’backs rebounded nicely in San Francisco against the division rival and defending World Series Champion Giants by taking two of three to close out the trip. Yet the one thing that stood out, the overwhelmingly negative part of the trip was that the bullpen, supposedly a strength of the team, needs to gets its act together quickly if the team wants to be a playoff contender in the National League.
While the aforementioned series win versus San Fran was great, coughing up leads in the 8th inning or later in every single game is alarming. Having Matt Reynolds save both games at AT&T Park is nice but not the way the D’backs should be winning games. Reynolds has been outstanding, not allowing a run in his ten appearances and Heath Bell, after his initial disastrous outing has pitched well. Brad Ziegler has been his usual stellar self, appearing in 14 games to the tune of a 1.42 ERA. However, even he hiccupped and only a great throw by Cody Ross allowed him to avoid the loss in Tuesday’s game. Tony Sipp has been just OK so far sporting a 4.26 ERA in ten games. The next two guys are the ones who have been the main culprits. J.J. Putz has three blown saves already this season, two of them ruining magnificent starts by Patrick Corbin. He has already given up two home runs and issued five walks in only nine innings of work. Topping off these rotten numbers is an ERA of 5.00. Manager Kirk Gibson has indicated Putz will remain the D’backs’ closer; I have no problem with that. I believe he will get better, maybe not as good as his first two seasons in Phoenix but still effective enough to be a good finisher. David Hernandez is the guy I am worried about. I don’t know what it is but I have had a bad feeling about him since I saw him pitch in the World Baseball Classic. His start to 2013 has not alleviated my concerns. He gave up the tying home run in the 9th inning of Wednesday’s game and except for the sheer luck of Robinson Cano‘s cleat getting in the way, would have been the guy giving up the lead to the New York Yankees last week. Three home runs, four walks and eleven hits in less than 11 innings of work is frightening. I can easily Hernandez struggle mightily this season with an ERA hovering around 4.00. Again, I don’t know why but I feel it in my gut.
If it sounds like I am hitting the panic switch, you might be right. We haven’t hit May yet but the team cannot afford to have a bullpen that’s broken with big bats (Aaron Hill and Jason Kubel) on the disabled list. There is plenty of time for the relief guys to get fixed but it needs to start right now on this seven game home stand.
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