PHOENIX — He may have spent more time in Seattle, where he was an All-Star in 2007, but the first season of what turned out to be a four-year run with the Arizona Diamondbacks will always standout to J.J. Putz.
“That’s the highlight of my career, to date; that whole season was just magical,” he said of 2011, the latest of the Diamondbacks’ five NL West division championships.
“When Goldy (Paul Goldschmidt) hit that ball down the line and we clinched that division that night — I still get goose bumps thinking about it. It was without question the greatest thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
Putz was on the mound that night, the night of Sept. 23, closing the game out against the Giants. It was his 44th save of what would be a career-high 45-save season for the then-34-year-old reliever, who signed as a free agent with the Diamondbacks that offseason to help solidify a bullpen that was one of the worst in history the year before.
Fast forward three years and needing to open up a roster spot to reinstate outfielder Ender Inciarte from the 7-day concussion disabled list, the Diamondbacks designated Putz for assignment on Friday.
“It’s sad. I’ve really, really enjoyed my time here,” he said. “My family, we obviously live here and to be able to call the Diamondbacks home as well was a pleasure, an absolute pleasure.”
Injuries had robbed Putz of playing time in each of the past two seasons. This season he spent more than a month on the disabled list dealing with forearm tightness.
In the five appearances since he returned Putz had allowed four runs on nine hits in 3.2 innings pitched.
“I feel really good,” he said, adding he hoped to land with another team, though sounding unwilling to accept a stay in the minor leagues first. “When I’m out long tossing my arm feels great. When I’m playing catch with my different pitches everything seems to be fine.
“There’s just something that’s not carrying over to the mound. I don’t know if that’s a mechanical thing or what. But, I mean, overall I feel great. I’m just not getting results.”
Putz called the Diamondbacks a “first class organization from top to bottom”, thanking team president Derrick Hall, general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.
“It’s a hard one. I have the utmost respect for J.J.,” Gibson said. “I’m very grateful for what he did for us in 2011. He was such a huge part of that season; and not only on the field, but what he did off the field. We became very good friends.”
Putz was informed of the impending move yesterday after the game.
“I’m not really surprised. I kind of had this feeling that something like this was going to happen. I just didn’t know when,” he said. “They had to make a decision and this was probably the most logical one to make.”
Putz, who went 1-1 with a 6.59 ERA in 18 relief appearances this season, ranks second on the Diamondbacks’ all-time saves list with 83, while his 2.81 ERA is second-best among D-backs pitchers all-time.
“From a bullpen standpoint, we’re losing our leader. That’s the guy that we’ve looked up to the last several years and the guy that’s been kind of the mentor for everybody,” said Brad Ziegler, now the longest-tenured Diamondbacks reliever. “You’re never going to be able to truly replace him. At the same time, we’ve got to come together as a team and play better on the field than we have been.”
The Diamondbacks have 10 days to either trade, waive or release Putz, who is making $7 million as part of a two-year extension he signed in 2013.
“I can’t say enough about the guys in that clubhouse,” he said. “And that’s probably the hardest thing about this is I’ve been on plenty of different teams, but the group of guys in that clubhouse are a special group and not being able to see those guys everyday is going to be the hardest part. They’re just quality, character guys. They’re first class.
“It’s going to be tough not seeing those guys every day.”