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Kirk Gibson backs bullpen despite struggles

The Arizona Diamondbacks have returned from a grueling nine-game, 6,300-mile road trip on which they went 4-5 in stops in New York, Colorado and San Francisco.

If there was one unit that really struggled on the coast-to-coast trip, it was the bullpen — a group that blew saves in five of the nine contests. Manager Kirk Gibson says he still has confidence in his late inning guys despite their recent failure to close out games.

“The situations where it’s gotten away from the bullpen in the games, they’re not like walking a bunch of people –we’re not losing games that way. They’re throwing the ball well,” said Gibson at Chase Field Thursday. “Have they buried the back foot sliders? No. I don’t think we focus on the fact that we’ve blown the save, I think we focus on looking ahead and how can we make better pitches in the future.”

Arizona has led in 17 of its games this season and the team scored first in five of the nine games on this last trip.

“Everybody is throwing the ball well. They’re healthy. On any given day you have different guys that are available, aren’t available. Different guys that have thrown several days in a row, gotten up several days in a row,” Gibson said.

The D-backs’ bullpen has gotten its fair share of work, leading the Majors with 13 save opportunities. But they also lead the league with seven blown saves and have a save percentage of just 46.

“The worse element when you give up the lead late in the game is that you have to use additional relievers to get through the rest of that game. The fact that we’ve given up the lead, we don’t really focus on that. We just say ‘okay let’s get out of this inning and let’s try and score.'”

Gibson has a reputation for defending his players and taking some of the blame/responsibility on himself when his team struggles, but he can’t dispute the numbers of setup man David Hernandez and closer J.J. Putz.

The 36-year-old Putz is dead last in baseball with three blown saves, and he owns a 5.00 ERA in nine innings of work. Hernandez has struggled as well, giving up three home runs in just 10.2 innings on the mound.

“I don’t want (Putz) to over-think it. I mean they’re throwing the ball good, they’re healthy, they feel good,” said Gibson. “I want them to continue to prepare. Just execute your pitches, believe in it and execute your pitches. There’s nothing mechanical.”