Feb 8, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher J.J. Putz (40) warms up during camp at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
After the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired closer Addison Reed from the Chicago White Sox, everybody believed that he would take over the same role or at least help shore up the back end of the bullpen. While the D’backs last season posted the 16th best bullpen ERA in the majors, a respectable 3.52, they also were tied with the Houston Astros for the most blown saves in the majors with 29. This cost the Snakes a chance of a winning season and a playoff berth. Just think about this: what happens if half those blown saves were converted? Arizona would have won 15 more games than they did and probably would have made the postseason as a wild card at the very least.
Kevin Towers recognized that his team’s back of the bullpen struggles were a problem and they had to do something about it. “We certainly had a rough time at the back end of games; some of it had to do with health, J.J. (Putz) missed quite a bit of time,” Towers told Doug and Wolf during their annual Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Our bullpen, specifically the ninth, was so spotty. There would be streaks where we were very, very good and we were very, very bad. There was no in between.” That is why he went out and acquired another reliever when many baseball experts believed the D’backs didn’t need another reliever. Keep in mind, ever since K.T took over as GM, the bullpen has always been the main focus to try to build this team into a contender.
At the start of camp the competition for closer’s role was just as scutinized as the ones for starting shortstop, the 5th starter, backup catcher, and the last bench spot. Early on,the competition was between three pitchers who all have closed games in the past: Reed who saved 40 games for Chicago last season, J.J. Putz who has been the team’s closer for the past three seasons converting a total of 83 saves and missed most of 2013 with an injury, and Brad Ziegler who took over as closer when Putz went down and did pretty well in that role.
However, just a few days ago during camp at Salt River Fields, Diamondbacks’ Manager Kirk Gibson seemed to suggest that Brad will probably be in the setup role. “He’s done both for us,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “He’s done well in both positions. He moved to the closer role last year because we had a need. So if we don’t have that need this year, he probably won’t be there.” Ziegler is fine with what ever role he is in and just wants to be a Diamondback.
So now that we know that the battle is down to two. Keep in mind whoever gets the job needs to stabilize the role if the D’backs want to win and make it back to the postseason in 2014. This is what Reed did in 2013: he locked down 40 games for the Sox, posting a 3.79 ERA while striking out 72 in 71.1 innings pitched.
By contrast, Putz struggled mainly due to health issues: he rallied to finish the season with six saves and a 2.36 ERA in 34.1 innings with 38 strikeouts. Putz does have a track record of closing games successfully for Arizona when he is healthy: he locked down 45 in 2011 when the Snakes won the West. It will be a fierce competition because both want the job. Either way you are getting a great 8th and 9th inning combo.
I am having a hard time deciding between Putz and Reed because they both have proven track records. I think it will be determined by their performance during workouts and spring games and obviously Putz’s health will be a factor. If I had to choose one guy right now, it would be Putz. While the D’backs brought Reed in to close, he can pitch the 8th inning plus with Putz fully healthy he should return to form of previous seasons. To me since he is the veteran and he should get the opportunity to get the job back that he performed effectively for three years. If Putz falters early, Reed should quickly take over the position. Given his track record with the team, J.J. should get the first crack at being the stopper.