To say the Arizona Diamondbacks’ closer position was a mess in 2013 would be an understatement.
Veterans Heath Bell, J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Matt Reynolds all held the closer spot at one time or another. And whether it was an injury or ineffectiveness, all lost the spot as well.
Enter veteran right-hander Brad Ziegler, who got his first chance in the new role in July and made the most of the opportunity.
The 34-year-old converted 13 of 15 save opportunities in 2013 while posting an 8-1 record and a sterling 2.22 ERA.
“I feel like, if nothing else, last year I proved that I could do it,” Ziegler told Doug and Wolf Wednesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Hopefully if they put me back in that role, it’s not a last resort. It’s a situation where ‘we know he can do this, we know he can have success there and win a lot of games and we can win a lot of games with him in that role.’
“If they want to put somebody else there and they feel like I’m better in the seventh or eighth inning, as long as we’re pitching in October at the end of the year, I really don’t care.”
Although nothing has been announced just yet by manager Kirk Gibson, Ziegler appears to be slated for a return to a setup role — one in which he has excelled for the D-backs since arriving in Arizona midway through the 2011 season. The team swung an offseason deal with the Chicago White Sox to acquire closer Addison Reed, who has 69 saves over the last two seasons. Add a healthy Putz into the mix, and the writing appears to be on the wall for Ziegler, but he’s fine with that.
“If our whole bullpen, everybody’s throwing lights out and doing what they’re capable of, that’s probably the best scenario for us,” he said.
The closer experiment served Ziegler well; he says it made him a better pitcher.
“When I’m pitching earlier in the game, they’re playing matchups with me — they kind of set me up to face certain righties,” Ziegler said. “At the end of the game, by facing so many lefties, I think it actually made me better against them because I felt like I’ve got to figure this out or we’re going to lose this game.
“It just got to where I worked that much harder on it and the experience was good for the future.”
Lefties hit just .246 in 118 at-bats against Ziegler in 2013, 53 points lower than their career average of .299.