SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The ball appears to be coming from the ground, right field, or way above your head diving towards the strike zone. That’s what an opponent’s batting eye is going to have to overcome when it takes on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ revamped bullpen in 2014.
A long list of unorthodox hurlers that features newcomers Oliver Perez and Addison Reed to go alongside Brad Ziegler, Josh Collmenter, and Joe Thatcher bring a unique personality to this year’s bullpen that is set to be an asset to the club rather than the handicap it was in previous seasons.
“I think we’re going to have a really good bullpen this year,” Collmenter said after Thursday’s exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians — the last game at Salt River Fields this spring.
Collmenter is one of the most versatile pitchers in baseball. He started games, pitched multiple innings in extra inning contests out of the bullpen, closed and produced results as a middle-innings reliever all in the course of the 2013 season. As long as his arm continues to allow him to toss baseballs as if they were tomahawks, he’ll do whatever is asked of him.
The Diamondbacks recently named Addison Reed as its closer, which has helped each reliever find an identity with the team.
“Everyone knows what their roles are now…and there’s not a situation facing us this season that we won’t be ready for,” Collmenter noted.
One of the biggest issues manager Kirk Gibson had to face in 2013 was managing a bullpen that had only one left-handed pitcher. In a highly competitive NL West division that features All-Star lefty hitters Carlos Gonzalez, Brandon Belt, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier Chase Headley, and Justin Morneau, a left-handed throwing reliever is incredibly useful.
“[Thatch] throws at a really weird angle, and Oliver throws really hard for a lefty. It’s an asset to the team to combat the talented lefty bats in our division,” Collmenter said.
With its midseason acquisition of Thatcher in 2013, along with signing Perez this spring, Arizona has addressed its need in the relief department.
The only question is, can they execute?
As a starting pitcher, Perez showed great inconsistency throughout his early career with the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates. Since a change of scenery that saw him excel as a reliever in Seattle from 2012-13, he has found a consistency in his performances since changing to the bullpen.
The Diamondbacks could certainly use it.
Thatcher, who has been a reliever his entire seven-year career, came from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline last season when Arizona cut ties with Ian Kennedy.
The Indianapolis native has a unique delivery as a lefty that makes pitches appear as if the right fielder or first baseman is throwing them.
He is one of many successful relievers to come out of San Diego, which operates like a factory the way that the Padres are perennially at the top of all bullpen categories throughout baseball.
Brad Ziegler — a submarine-style righty who throws from the the ground up — contributes inning-ending double play grounders to erase opposing teams’ rallies.
“It’s mind-blowing how many double play balls he gets off righties,” Collmenter commented.
Closing down the door will be Reed, who saved 40 games in 2013 with the Chicago White Sox.
Arizona had one of the best bullpens in baseball this spring, posting the second-lowest ERA in the Cactus League.
This versatile bunch has the making of a unit that can be the most improved bullpen from a year ago as well as one of the more dominant groups in all of baseball.
With that in mind, have fun watching where the ball will be coming from.