Putz still closer, but workload will be watched

D-backs say Putz will remain closer but workload will be monitored; others may get chances.

SAN DIEGO -- J.J. Putz remains the Diamondbacks’ closer, but he may not be the only reliever placed in save situations in the near future.

The D-backs saw Putz’s fastball velocity drop from 95 mph to 89 mph when he was used  three times in four days recently, and manager Kirk Gibson said he will try to do a better job of managing Putz’s workload. Putz either warmed up for or appeared in eight of 11 games during the D-backs’ recent stretch of 16 games without an off day.

“I’m going to be more proactive, yes. I may not pitch him two days in a row. I may pitch him two and give him two off,” Gibson said before the D-backs opened a three-game series in San Diego on Friday.

“We need to get J.J. on track. J.J. is my closer. I am going to make sure I monitor and give him a chance to build back up and get back into the season. He’s 36 years old. That’s the way it is. I want to give him a better chance to be successful, that’s for sure. I don’t want to push him as hard as I did. We’ll do what we have to do to try to win the game.”

Putz would close Friday, Gibson said, and there will be no major role changes, only possible usage tweaks, for a bullpen that has a majors-high 10 failed save conversions. Putz has four and setup man David Hernandez has three.

That the D-backs’ 16 straight games included acute travel -- they did not arrive for a game in Denver on April 19 until 5 a.m. after an extra-inning night game in Yankee Stadium the night before -- along with six extra-inning games and an abundance of close games added to the burden. The D-backs have played 20 games decided by two runs or less. D-backs relievers have pitched 90 2/3 innings, sixth in the NL.

“Early in the season, that workload took its toll on us. Physically and mentally, I think they are drained,” general manager Kevin Towers said, calling the recent three-game sweep by the Giants an example.

“For me, it really wasn’t as much pitch selection as pitch location. When you are fatigued and tired and playing a team that is battle-tested and made their living in games like that, stuff like that happens."

Heath Bell, who had three 40-save seasons with the Padres from 2009-11, has a save this season, and left-hander Matt Reynolds has two. Hernandez has 15 in the last two years, the majority coming when Putz spent a month on the disabled list in 2011, missing almost all of July.

“We’ve seen in the past ... I’m not going to say we are going to put a guy on the DL,  but we did that one year and (Putz) put together a pretty good three, four months. All those guys have to be pretty honest with Charlie (pitching coach Nagy) and Gibby with where they are at. If you are like this, don’t give us this,” Towers said, moving his right thumb from perpendicular to pointing up, as in good to go.

“Until we can get these guys rested, he might have to be a little more cautious on how much he uses them. Maybe ( Josh) Collmenter will have to pitch the seventh or the eighth. If we get starts of seven or eight innings, it gives you a chance to rest those guys. Or score a lot of runs, where they have a little more buffer room and it is not like every pitch is a critical pitch.”

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