PHOENIX — Heath Bell remained the Diamondbacks’ nominal closer Sunday, but manager Kirk Gibson seemed to indicate that the situation is fluid as the team awaits the return of J.J. Putz.
The D-backs did not have a lead to preserve in a 4-2 loss to the Reds on Sunday, but before the game, Gibson indicated he had several options.
“Pretty much the way it is, (Bell) is still going to be our closer. It doesn’t mean today we might use somebody else, possibly,” Gibson said.
“You want to get him turned around. Is the right thing to do today to put him in the fire, or is it to let him have a day of work, have a day off, work a little more and work him back in in a better situation? That’s kind of how we did it before.”
David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler were candidates to close Sunday’s game, Gibson acknowledged when asked.
Bell has given up home runs in his last five appearances, but at the same he had converted nine consecutive save opportunities before failing to hold Patrick Corbin’s 2-1 lead in the ninth inning Saturday. He is 2-1 with a 5.02 ERA and 13 saves in 16 opportunities.
Most of his save chances have come since Putz went on the disabled list with a right elbow strain May 8. Putz has made two rehab appearances at Class AAA Reno, striking out the side in his last on Thursday, and is expected to make back-to-back appearances Monday and Tuesday before a possible activation.
The D-backs have said they want to make sure Putz can pitch consecutive days before bringing him back, and unless there is a setback, he seems likely to return Wednesday or Thursday, early in the 10-game trip to Washington, Atlanta and New York that begins Tuesday.
Bell talked to pitching coach Charles Nagy after Saturday’s game and had a typical touch-and-feel session in the bullpen Sunday morning. He has had trouble locating his fastball in recent weeks, but he said he has found a mechanical flaw in his delivery that can be corrected.
“I’m just frustrated because maybe I didn’t see the mechanical thing earlier. We’ll go out there and clean it up,” Bell said. “I feel I can throw five, 10 pitches off the mound and fix it. I just need to clean up a few things to help me execute my pitches a little better. I’m executing my pitches, but it is always one or two that gets hit. I’ll be fine.”
Bell struggled early this season, giving up four runs in his first three appearances, before returning to the form that got him 43, 47 and 44 saves from 2009-11 in San Diego. Bell was 2-0 with a 2.01 ERA and 10 saves in 12 chances from April 7-June 7.
“He’s kind of doing what he was doing earlier in the year, and we’ll have to adjust it,” Gibson said. “You see him out there, he is throwing virtually fastballs. He has no feel for his breaking ball at all and doesn’t really have any direction with his fastball as well. He’s way too much middle” of the plate.
At the same time, Gibson said he was not about to make a decision in the heat of the moment.
“He’s saved quite a few games for us, too. Sometimes I think people overreact. It’s a tough game. You want everybody to be perfect. It just doesn’t work that way. I would, too. And so would Heath Bell. So would J.J. So would every player on the team. It’s a tough deal. I just don’t want to overreact to a frustrating situation.”