Diekman and Ziegler bring diversity, late-inning arms to D-backs
PHOENIX — Trade deadline acquisitions Jake Diekman and Brad Ziegler arrive to the Arizona Diamondbacks with a different type of familiarity.
Ziegler, the low-throwing right-handed reliever formerly of the Miami Marlins, spent parts of six different seasons with Arizona from 2011-16.
Diekman, a hard-throwing lefty, was already in-house. Upon the trade, he packed the D-backs’ bullpen cart at Chase Field with his equipment and moved clubhouses on Tuesday as Arizona prepared to face his former team, the Texas Rangers.
“It was pretty smooth. That golf cart has good shocks,” Diekman deadpanned. “But yeah, very weird.
“I can’t wait to put on the uniform and hopefully beat that team across the way tonight.”
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) August 1, 2018
What does it mean for Arizona’s bullpen? Manager Torey Lovullo doesn’t want to shock the team’s system as it sits at 59-49 as of the deadline, 0.5 games from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ NL West lead and in the second Wild Card spot.
The Diamondbacks hope to keep closer Brad Boxberger, plus setup men Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano, in their respective roles despite some hiccups in the first few weeks after the All-Star break.
“I feel like I don’t want to change that culture that we have. I just want to add in the key pieces to that,” Lovullo said.
Integrating Ziegler into a familiar Arizona clubhouse was as logistically appealing for the D-backs as was planning Diekman’s transportation to his new team.
Adding Ziegler’s groundball-inducing pitching against righties — he owns a 0.68 ERA in the last 30 days — will give Lovullo another reliable option after the team paid the price of sending pitching prospect Tommy Eveld to Miami.
“The more guys to hit the ball to Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte, the better off we are,” D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said of Ziegler.
Diekman, who was traded for pitching prospect Wei-Chieh Huang and a player to be named later, adds a different element.
Though lefties are hitting .273 against him this year, he has in the past shown the ability to thrive against batters with either handedness using a mid-90s fastball and slider. The 6-foot-4 power arm has a 3.69 ERA this year inflated by a 7.50 ERA at the Rangers’ home field.
“Diekman to us, the power to his stuff (was appealing),” Hazen said. “As we’ve talked about quite a bit, our bullpen is sort of built a little bit differently. There’s sort of a variance of looks instead of coming at you with straight stuff all the time. He sort of flips that on its head a little bit in the other direction.”
The duo, Lovullo hopes, can make it easier on him when tough decisions come about pulling the likes of Bradley, Hirano and Boxberger if they find trouble — they each have a blown save since the All-Star break.
Targeting relievers at the deadline will also give Arizona options in how to use lefty Andrew Chafin, who was placed on paternity leave Tuesday. Lovullo and Hazen mentioned Ziegler and Diekman allowing the D-backs more flexibility bridging the middle innings into the Hirano-Bradley-Boxberger frames.
“I would use Chafin and mix him in late into the game in positive roles and I feel like I have two new pieces I can add in to that,” Lovullo said.
Lovullo called the new additions supplementary.
But in the clubhouse, it’s believed it’s a move that can make Arizona one of the more imposing bullpens in the National League, something that could keep the D-backs on pace with rivals in the chase who also upgraded their rosters on what was a busy MLB trade deadline.
“We’ve been able to piece together a solid bullpen with below-average stuff, essentially, compared to the rest of the league,” Bradley said. “You’re starting to add guys — Ziegler down below, Diekman (a) lefty, weird arm-slot — starting to add those pieces where when you talk about putting guys in bigger situations that get you in the playoffs or not, these are the arms you want.”