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Bullpen concerns D-backs heading into season opener

After a dismal spring training, the Arizona Diamondbacks find themselves with more concerns than anticipated going into Opening Day.

The biggest one hasn’t changed since last season. It’s still pitching.

“My concern is the bullpen,” said D-backs color analyst Tom Candiotti on Sports 620 KTAR’s Doug and Wolf. “The back of the bullpen is what really hurt the Diamondbacks last year.”

The D-backs’ bullpen posted a 16-32 record in 2010 with a 5.74 ERA, finishing dead last in the National League in both statistics. To add insult to injury, they became the first NL bullpen since the 2004 Rockies to lose twice as many games as they won.

The club brought in relief pitcher J.J. Putz through free agency in December, but a back injury set him back throughout spring training. Pitching the ninth inning in Tuesday night’s exhibition game was his first appearance since March 16.

“If he comes back and he’s able to close games down, this is going to be a pretty good team,” Candiotti said. “But if he doesn’t, that’s the question mark. That’s the one thing that everyone should watch for.”

On Monday, the team announced that Armando Galarraga would take the final rotation spot and that Aaron Heilman will be moved to the bullpen. Candiotti believes having the right hander there will end up strengthening the weakest spot of the team.

Despite reliever questions though, starters Daniel Hudson, Ian Kennedy and Barry Enright finished the spring as the brightest spots in the rotation.

Hudson started 11 games for the D-backs last season, finishing with a 7-1 record and a 1.69 ERA. Kennedy and Enright both have room for improvement, but came out of spring training looking strong.

“Hudson, to me, there’s no doubt about this kid,” Candiotti said. “He’s going to be a top-of-the-rotation guy at some point. [Kennedy] keeps hitters off balance so that’s why he’s always going to be an effective pitcher. [Enright] tried to shore up a couple mechanical problems that he had and it’s really worked well for him this spring.”

With their first game of the season two days away, not many expect much of this D-backs team. With a team that he believes can be offensively consistent, Candiotti thinks an equally consistent bullpen can make this team a competitor.

Maybe all the team really needs is their color analyst suiting up in a relief position. GM Kevin Towers does believe in veterans, after all.

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