PHOENIX — Every closer blows saves. It’s simply the nature of the job.
Just last weekend, the San Diego Padres’ Craig Kimbrel, widely regarded as the best in the business at locking down victories, saw his consecutive saves streak snapped at 35.
But for Arizona Diamondbacks closer Addison Reed, blowing two of the four save opportunities he has had in the 2015 season is, well, a tad alarming.
Reed entered the ninth inning of Wednesday’s tilt with the Washington Nationals looking to protect a 6-5 lead. He induced a hard-hit groundout before allowing two straight singles and then a walk to load the bases.
Then, with one out, the Nationals’ Michael Taylor deposited Reed’s second pitch over the wall in center field. That lead turned into a 9-6 deficit, which soon after turned into the team’s 18th loss of the season.
With Reed’s ERA ballooning to an ugly 7.20, is D-backs manager Chip Hale considering a change?
“It just happened, let’s give it a day or so, huh,” the first-year skipper responded when asked that very question. “Every time somebody doesn’t perform they’re either going to get taken out of the rotation or they’re going to get sent down. Know what I mean?
“Come on, man. It’s a 162-game season, guys struggle, man. Let’s give that team credit. They battled, guy off the bench got put in for a guy who got thrown out, comes up with a big home run. That’s pretty impressive, so, I mean, we’re always trying to get better but we haven’t had a whole lot of those opportunities for him, so it’s hard. We just have to get better.”
After the game, Reed said he hadn’t seen the tape yet, but knew his pitch to Taylor was belt-high and over the middle.
“It felt like a terrible pitch and he did what he was supposed to do with it,” Reed said.
To be fair to Reed, he appeared to get squeezed on some pitches by home plate umpire Rob Drake to the batter before Taylor, which surely did not help. But, Reed admitted, while it would be nice to see all strikes called as such, “it’s hard for him to call strikes when you’re all over the place like I was in the ninth inning.”
Part of the issue could be the lack of save opportunities, as 25 different pitchers have more saves than Reed has save chances. Hale said the sporadic usage makes it tough for a pitcher to stay sharp, though Reed said it’s not really an issue.
“They’ve been doing a pretty good job of getting me out there and getting consistent work, and when I go too long I go through a bullpen on the side,” he said. “It just didn’t work out.”
Reed said he would need maybe five to 10 minutes to think about what happened before moving on, but once that time is up, he’s on to the next one.
Closers have to have a short memory, after all.
But the broader issue for Reed, who said he felt good Wednesday but just couldn’t locate his pitches, is that this was not the first time he’s struggled to nail down a save. Last season he blew six of his 38 chances while posting a 4.25 ERA.
But if Hale decided to replace Reed, there is not really a clear-cut option on the roster.
Brad Ziegler has 33 career saves and is arguably the team’s most consistent reliever, but it may be best to leave him in a setup role.
Enrique Burgos saved 29 games last year in the California League, but he is anything but proven at the Major League level.
After them, the team could maybe turn to Daniel Hudson, but it may not be a good idea to mess with his routine as he in his first full season back following two Tommy John surgeries.
Though he has been unable to convert on 50 percent of his save opportunities this year, the D-backs may ultimately decide it best to give the 26-year-old a little more time in the role, thinking he can figure things out and turn his season around.
“He’s been through it, we’ve all been through ups and downs,” first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “Nobody gets here with all successes. We’ve got full confidence and the next time he’s out there…he’ll be ready to go, as will everyone else.”