PHOENIX — Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz has made 22 consecutive scoreless appearances, one of the best runs in franchise history, and manager Kirk Gibson sees more of the same in future.
The D-backs hold a $6.5 million option on Putz for 2013, and Gibson believes Putz can be a valuable component again next season. It is not that Gibson is lobbying, but …
“I think he can” pitch the same way next year. “I think he can,” Gibson said.
After a slow start, Putz has been one of the most effective relievers in the majors since May 26. He has converted 17 straight save opportunities, the fourth-longest active streak in the majors behind Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman (23), Texas’ Joe Nathan (23) and San Diego’s Huston Street (21).
Putz gave up four home runs in his first 11 games and failed on three of his first 12 save chances, but all that changed when he stopped throwing a cut fastball he had added in spring training. The cutter affected Putz’s mechanics, Gibson said, and led to reduced velocity.
“He had a really rough start, and he regrouped. He’s really throwing the ball where he wants to throw it. When he gets ahead, he throws strikes. He doesn’t get himself in trouble, so he can make his pitches. Or he can take a couple pitches to set a third pitch up, and that’s really what he’s been doing really consistently for us,” Gibson said.
Putz, 35, has given up nine hits in his 21 2/3-inning scoreless streak while striking out 23 and walking just three. He has six 1-2-3 innings in his last 10. Brandon Lyon has the franchise records for consecutive scoreless appearances (24) and scoreless innings (25).
Putz’s salary does not seem burdensome. The D-backs have about $52 million committed to nine players in 2013, including Miguel Montero ($10 million), Justin Upton ($9.75 million) and Chris Young ($8.5 million). With Putz, that number would be closer to $58 million for 10 players.
The D-backs’ payroll this year is about $75 million and is expected to be in the same area — perhaps slightly lower — next season. They saved about $2 million with the recent trades of Stephen Drew and Joe Saunders. Ian Kennedy, Chris Johnson, Gerardo Parra, Brad Ziegler and Brad Bergesen will be eligible for arbitration next year.