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D-backs GM Towers: J.J. Putz, Addison Reed to battle for closer job

LISTEN: Kevin Towers, D-backs GM

When the Arizona Diamondbacks sent top third base prospect Matt Davidson to the Chicago White Sox for Addison Reed, they received a player who has recorded 69 saves over the last two seasons.

In 2013, he locked down 40 games for the Sox, posting a 3.79 ERA while striking out 72 in 71.1 innings pitched.

Is he the team’s new closer? At the very least, he’s expected to help take care of what was a really sore spot for the D-backs in 2013.

“We certainly had a rough time at the back end of games; some of it had to do with health, J.J. (Putz) missed quite a bit of time,” D-backs GM Kevin Towers told Doug and Wolf during their annual Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “Our bullpen, specifically the ninth, was so spotty. There would be streaks where we were very, very good and we were very, very bad. There was no in between.”

D-backs relievers posted the 16th-best ERA in all of baseball at 3.52, but were tied with the Astros for the league lead with 29 blown saves, too.

Perhaps no one epitomized the bullpen’s inconsistency quite like Heath Bell, who led the team with 15 saves but also blew seven chances and finished with an ERA of 4.11.

He’s since been traded, though, and Towers is confident in the group of relievers the team currently has.

“Getting Addison, he’s young, really starting to come into his prime,” Towers added. “Forty saves for a ball club there in Chicago that wasn’t real strong last year.”

Towers said he’s been high on Reed since watching him pitch at San Diego State, where he helped close out games for Nationals star Stephen Strasburg.

“There were certain nights where his stuff was as good as Strasburg’s,” Towers said. “We’re excited to have him; he gives us more depth.”

Adding Reed also changes others’ roles, including the likely move of Brad Ziegler back to a setup position. Last year, the veteran filled in admirably as the closer, finishing the season with 13 saves and an ERA of 2.22, but Towers said the preference would be to have the submarine-thrower in a role that sees him come into the games a bit earlier than the ninth inning.

“Where a lot of times games are decided, where you need that big groundball double play,” he said. “He did a great job for us in the ninth, but we didn’t really have that guy, that experienced guy in the seventh.”

But, Towers said, that does not mean the closer job belongs to Reed. Though he may have been acquired with the idea that he’ll assume the role, the 25-year-old is going to have to earn it.

After all, Putz has essentially been the team’s closer the last three years, tallying 83 saves in the process. Last season, though, he struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness at times, but rallied to finish the season with six saves and a 2.36 ERA in 34.1 innings. He struck out 38.

“I’m looking forward to the battle,” Towers said. “I know when we picked him up, J.J. asked, ‘Is this my job,’ and I said, ‘No, you guys are going to compete.'”

The GM said he told Putz that he believes the competition between a tested veteran like Putz and a young, up-and-coming pitcher like Reed will benefit everyone.

“I know that they get along well, but I’m looking forward to them out in the spring figuring out who’s going to be the guy.”