PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks improved bullpen has been one of the biggest stories so far early in the season.
Arizona had one of the worst bullpens in the history of baseball last season, but have managed to make it one of the team’s strengths this season rather than a hindrance.
Relief pitcher Sam Demel joined the Sports 620 KTAR’s Gambo and Ash show on Friday and said the reason for the bullpen’s improvement is all about confidence.
“Guys go out starting off the season putting up zeros, you can see everybody getting a little more confident and wanting the ball,” said Demel.
“That’s a big factor in any sport. We got it right now and we’re rolling with it.”
The bullpen is more confident this season because they are better prepared for what’s being asked of them. The roles of the relief pitchers have been clearly defined from the beginning of the season.
Each pitcher has a good understanding of when they are coming into the game.
“We know our roles. We know when we’re going to throw and what situations we’re going to come in for. It’s easy to prepare for that,” said Demel.
And it all starts with the closer’s spot. A good bullpen is always built backwards from the ninth inning.
General manager Kevin Towers, in one of his first moves, went out and signed J.J. Putz to take over that key position.
Putz has responded going a perfect 10-for10 in save chances compiling a minuscule 2.12 ERA.
“All we got to do is shorten the game up and get the ball to J.J., game’s over. That’s why he’s here and what he’s been doing all year,” said Demel.
Towers also acquired the hard-throwing David Hernandez in the Mark Reynolds deal and he has solidified his place as the eighth inning set-up guy.
“Hernandez has been doing an unbelievable job in the eighth inning of getting the ball to him(Putz),” said Demel.
With the eighth and ninth innings secured by Hernandez and Putz, the rest of the D-back relievers know, when they come into the game in the sixth and seventh innings, they just have to bridge the gap from the starting rotation to those two.
It’s hard to believe that a bullpen that was so awful last season could be vastly improved so fast, but that’s what happens when you have clearly defined roles for every pitcher and a closer that can shut the door in the ninth inning.