Two years ago, Arizona Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz was a revelation, as he saved 45 games in 49 chances for a team that won the National League West.
Putz wasn’t as good last season, though he still nailed down 32 saves in 37 chances.
This season, though, things have really gone south for the veteran right-hander.
Putz has already blown a baseball-leading four saves — in nine chances — and is carrying a 4.26 ERA in 12.2 innings of work.
Following Putz’s latest collapse Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants, D-backs skipper Kirk Gibson said he is not ready to mess with his team’s bullpen, which has blown a total of nine saves this season.
ESPN MLB analyst Tim Kurkjian tends to agree, because you never know how players will react when placed in different roles.
But, he told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo, the D-backs, who are still in contention in the NL West, cannot keep losing late leads like they have been.
“That cannot keep up if the bullpen continues to pitch like this,” he said. “I understand how the closer may be an overrated part of the game, I get all that. I’ve seen all the numbers and I’ve done all the research.
“But when you have a bad bullpen and you lose late leads, you simply can’t win. You can’t.”
Kurkjian says he’s talked to plenty of baseball people who believe losing in the manner that the D-backs have been is very damaging to a team. And, given how bad the team’s bullpen was just a few years ago, few in the desert will disagree.
But does that mean it’s time to demote their closer of the last couple seasons in favor of a different option, perhaps David Hernandez, Heath Bell or Matt Reynolds?
Kurkjian says no, at least not yet.
“I’m not sure what they can do about it except give J.J. Putz one more chance and tell him, ‘look, it’s got to be better,'” he said. “Which obviously he knows, but the problem is when you start messing with your bullpen — taking guys out of roles, putting guys in new roles, you kind of have to reinvent things — you don’t want to do that.
“But sometimes you don’t have any other choice.”