Ziegler comes out of break as D-backs' closer

BY foxsports • July 22, 2013

PHOENIX -- When the Diamondbacks parted for the All-Star break, one of their stated goals was determining a bullpen configuration. They came out of it with Brad Ziegler as the closer.

Ziegler was given the D-backs' only save opportunity in the first four games following the break, and he converted it while giving up an unearned run in the ninth inning of a 3-1 victory over the Giants on Sunday.

"Kind of make my decision as it goes on within the game," manager Kirk Gibson said of identifying his closer, "although I did tell 'Ziggy' the other day I was thinking he would be that guy. That's kind of where I am right now.

"But if we're in the eighth inning and we've got two outs or one out and the bases are loaded, who is the best player on our team for that situation? It's Brad Ziegler. Bring him in and hope he gets the double-play ball, and maybe he goes out and throws the ninth."

The D-backs have 19 failed save conversions, tied with the Cubs for the most in the majors, and Gibson went into closer-by-situation mode after Heath Bell failed to hold a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning of a 7-5, 14-inning loss to the Dodgers on July 10. Bell, Putz and setup man David Hernandez have five blown saves apiece.

Ziegler saved two games against the Brewers and Hernandez had one in the final series before the All-Star break.

"I think, ideally, if everybody is pitching well, then I'm not our closer," Ziegler said. "J.J. is the guy or Heath is the guy or David is the guy. Their style of pitching is better suited for that role. I'm better suited to come in with runners on base.

"At the same time, when those guys are struggling and they feel I'm the best guy for that spot, I'll jump in there and try to get three outs. If everybody had been pitching well from the start of the season, I never would have gotten a save opportunity."

Ziegler, 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA, got his first save in a 5-4, 15-inning victory over the Mets on July 4, when he was the last reliever available. He has given up only two homers this season -- Hernandez and Bell have given up eight apiece -- and he has developed a changeup to attack left-handed hitters. Lefties are hitting only .222 against Ziegler after hitting over .300 against him in his first five seasons. 

"My changeup has been a lot better, but a lot of it is executing fastballs. Focusing on keeping the ball down. When I elevate it a little bit, lefties can elevate that pitch a little better," Ziegler said.

"It (the changeup) is something I worked really hard on in the offseason and spring training. Even in spring training, I was throwing it when it wasn't a good time to throw it, just because I wanted to keep throwing it. The results are finally starting to come to where I am extremely confident."

Ziegler also is among the best setup men in the NL. He has permitted only seven of his 37 inherited runners to score, among the best ratios in the majors.

"Right now I can prepare to throw the ninth inning. If that changes, they'll tell me, and I'm back to where I was before -- stretch in the fifth inning and see what happens after that," he said.

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