Once upon a time, the Arizona Diamondbacks' bullpen was one of the best in baseball, able to lock games down when the team had a lead and keep them in the game long enough for the offense to rally late.
Oh, what a difference one season makes.
The Diamondbacks are carrying a bullpen ERA of 4.65 -- good enough for sixth-worst in baseball -- and have already been credited for six losses in this young season.
And while lefties Joe Paterson (11 earned runs in 2.2 innings of work) and Mike Zagurski (4 earned runs in 2.1 innings of work) have received much of the blame for the struggles, the team is also having to work through issues with closer J.J. Putz.
The 35-year-old right-hander given up a run in four of his nine appearances, while blowing two of his seven save opportunities.
Including a walk-off homer surrendered to the Nationals' Ian Desmond Wednesday, Putz has allowed three long balls on the season -- one short of the four he gave up in 2011. His ERA stands at a disappointing 6.48, which is a far cry from the 2.17 mark he finished 2011 with.
At the same time, Putz has struck out 10 batters and failed to issue a walk so far in 8.1 innings of work, so it's not as if he's totally lost on the mound.
The good news for the D-backs, though, is that there are some relievers putting together fine seasons.
Setup man David Hernandez has struck out 19 batters in 12.1 innings of work, Bryan Shaw has been effective out of the pen with a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings, and veterans Brad Ziegler and Craig Breslow have been solid, too.
What does it all mean for the Diamondbacks? Well, other than the fact that it's early and there is time to improve, not much.
Unless, of course, they don't improve.