MLB: AZ Diamondbacks Closer for 2014
After being tied with the Houston Astros last year for the most blown saves in the majors with 29, the Arizona Diamondbacks went out and acquired closer Addison Reed from the Chicago White Sox.
Everybody believed that Reed would take over the closer’s role for the Diamondbacks in 2014, but so far in Spring Training both Reed and J.J. Putz are contending for the closer position. It will be an intense clash because they are both after the job.
Reed, who will make the minimum salary in 2014, won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season, so the Diamondbacks will be getting a long-term answer in the setup or closer’s role. He saved 40 games last year while throwing 71 innings with a 3.79 ERA and 72 strikeouts. He held opponents to a .215 batting average. Reed did give up six homeruns and had eight blown saves; something Diamondback fans became accustomed to last year, but hopefully will not see again this year.
Reed has a fastball range of 92-94 mph. He mixes in a slider that is around 83 to 85 mph. He has worked with a changeup as well and with the help of new Pitching Coach, Mike Harkey, we should see an improvement with that pitch.
J.J. Putz, who has been the team’s closer for the past three seasons, missed most of 2013 with an injury to his elbow and then his finger and he struggled because of those injuries. He did put together a strong finish at the end of 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 the Diamondbacks when he is healthy. In 2011 he saved 45 when the Diamondbacks won the NL West and has a total of 83 saves since coming to the Diamondbacks.
Putz who turned 37 last Saturday throws up to five different pitches. He has both a four-seam and a two-seam fastball. The two-seam is usually thrown to left handed batters. When his fastball was on he could throw it in the upper 90s, but now with age and injuries, it will be in the 90–94 mph range. His main off-speed pitch is his splitter which catches many batters by surprise. He also has been known to throw a handful of cutters and sliders to right-handed hitters. Let’s not forget Putz is regarded as a leader in the clubhouse, particularly among the pitching staff, and often mentors young pitchers, something closers do not always like to do.
Think about this – what happens if half those wasted save chances were converted in 2013? The Diamondbacks would have won at least 14 more games than they did and probably would have made the postseason, as a wild card at the very least.
The Diamondbacks certainly had a rough time at the back end of games last year; especially the ninth inning, whether it was David Hernandez, (the since traded) Heath Bell or even J.J. Putz. The Diamondbacks bullpen had streaks, at times very good and other times, very bad. You might even say there was no in between with this bullpen at all. That is probably the major reason why Kevin Towers went out and acquired Reed.
It is going to be a difficult decision for Manager Kirk Gibson and his staff. Both Putz and Reed have proven track records. It might come down to their performances during Spring Training games.
If I had to choose one guy right now, it would be Putz. While the Diamondbacks brought Reed in to close, he can pitch the 8th inning as a set-up role. Putz, saying he is fully healthy this year, should return to form of previous seasons, but if he struggles early, Reed should quickly take over the position.
Keep in mind whoever gets the job needs to stabilize the closer’s position if the Diamondbacks want to win and return to the postseason this season.
I hope to see you at Spring Training 2014.
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