Diamondbacks spring training preview: Relief pitchers
Second in a series previewing the 2014 Arizona Diamondbacks heading into the start of spring training.
Most of the arms that filled the bullpen last season return, including sometime-closers Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz, both right-handers. Right-handers David Hernandez and Will Harris also are back, as is long man and fellow right-hander Josh Collmenter. Left-handers Joe Thatcher, Eury De La Rosa and Joe Paterson will compete for positions in a crowded pen, too.
Right-hander Addison Reed is expected to take over as closer after being obtained from the White Sox in a trade that sent third base prospect Matt Davidson to the Windy City. Reed, 25, had 40 saves last season and 29 the year before with Chicago. ... Right-hander Marcos Mateo, whose career was delayed by Tommy John surgery in 2012, was claimed from the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft. ... Right-handed prospects Matt Stites and Jake Barrett touch the high-90 mph range with their fastballs, and each could contend for a setup role.
Left-hander Matt Reynolds, a valuable bullpen piece in his first season with the Diamondbacks last year, is expected to miss most of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September. Putz was slowed by an elbow injury and a broken finger last year, but he ended the season healthy.
Arizona relievers gave up an NL-worst 59 home runs and tied for the major league high with 29 failed save conversions in 2013, so changes were made. With Reed taking over as closer, both Ziegler and Putz are expected to return to setup roles. Ziegler was the Diamondbacks' most effective closer in 2013 after taking over the job the weekend before the All-Star break, converting 12 of his 14 save opportunities thereafter. As much as the D-backs saw from Ziegler in the ninth inning, they also like his ability enter a game with runners on base and get a grounder to get out of an inning. Ziegler has induced 32 double plays in 163 1/3 innings since joining the Diamondbacks at the 2011 trade deadline. For the first time in his four seasons here, Putz will not enter spring training as the closer. He was effective as a setup man last season when his velocity returned following his May elbow strain. ... Can Hernandez return to his pre-2013 form, when he appeared to be the team's closer-in-waiting? ... Harris proved to be another of general manager Kevin Towers relief "finds" after being claimed from the Athletics last season. ... Left-hander Joe Thatcher had a rough go after being obtained from the Padres in a package for Ian Kennedy, but he enters camp as the favorite to claim the left-handed specialist role.
Bell, who was either up or down with a team-high 15 saves, 12 homers allowed and seven blown saves, went to Tampa Bay as part of a three-way deal for prospects early in the offseason. ... Collmenter was one of the two or three best long relievers in the majors last season, and the longer the game lasted, the more effective he became. His 29 extra innings pitched led the majors and were among the most in recent history. Collmenter could get a partner this season: If Bradley makes the starting rotation, right-hander Randall Delgado could move to the bullpen, Towers has said. ... Stites, who also was obtained from San Diego in the Kennedy deal, missed the final weeks of the summer season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy but was not scored upon in his final nine outings with the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. He had three saves in the Fall League; Barrett had four. ... Mateo hit 97 mph in the Dominican winter league before being selected in the Rule 5 draft, and he has two years of major league experience with the Cubs.