MLB: A Bright Spot for the AZ Diamondbacks
Last year’s Diamondbacks’ bullpen was one of the worst in MLB. We all remember the blown saves, innings worked and the “who’s the closer?” issues. General Manager Kevin Towers has made this his highest priority since becoming the GM and as you know, not with much success. The start to the 2014 season saw the bullpen looking like last year’s version; blowing a couple of saves against the SF Giants. Everyone in the bullpen was responsible for giving up at least one run, (except J J Putz). Closer Addison Reed struggled with giving up a homerun, Joe Thatcher, Oliver Perez and Brad Ziegler all struggled to start the season with finding the strike zone. However, in recent weeks things have settled down, with some of the best performances coming out of the bullpen for this team. Despite giving up two homeruns and four earned runs, Addison Reed has done a good job stabilizing the closer’s role and, as long as he stays healthy and keeps the ball away from the middle of the plate, it will remain his job. Reed really has not had many opportunities to save a game, with most of his appearances coming in non-save situations when the team is losing, just to get some work in.
Quite possibly the bright spots for this team’s bullpen has been the performances of J.J Putz and lefty specialist Joe Thatcher. After the July 2013 deal, Thatcher compiled a 6.75 ERA and by the end of the season he seemed to struggle against both left and right handed hitters. When Spring Training 2014 started and the team signed Oliver Perez many wondered if he would make the team! He is an unusual relief pitcher in that he throws only two pitches. He almost exclusively throws a cut fastball or a slider. His slider is mainly his two strike pitch and that is the pitch he uses to get both right and left handed batters out. Look for him to face more than one or two batters during a game if he continues to pitch the way he has recently.
Putz was the team’s closer in 2011 and 2012, and started the 2013 season as the closer, before injuries set in. So far in 2014 he has appeared in nine games and he has allowed just one earned run. He seems to have accepted his role in the bullpen, and looks like he will be the 8th inning set up man for Addison Reed. The crafty veteran might not be able to throw his fastball into the high 90’s anymore, but he can make pitches when needed and is good at placing them in the strike zone.
Also, after moving to the bullpen because of their pitching struggles, both Trevor Cahill and Randall Delgado have done well. In last Saturday’s win Cahill got his first career save. Both have looked more comfortable in their new roles. Maybe Cahill and Delgado will fit better in the bullpen for the rest of the season.
In a season that has been filled with a horrendous starting pitching and inconsistency in hitting, the bullpen has been a bright spot for this team.
Stay on the Diamondbacks’ “bandwagon”. The Diamondback are back at Chase Field starting on Friday April 25th for three games with the Phillies followed by three against Rockies.
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