Since 2013, Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Brad Ziegler has saved 44 ball games.
That’s 30th among big league pitchers in that time frame, which is quite amazing, because Ziegler hasn’t ever been the team’s Opening Day closer — until this year.
Ziegler took over the closer’s role last May and converted 30-of-32 save opportunities. It was that performance that has him penciled in as manager Chip Hale’s fireman heading into the 2016 season.
“I think right now, I am the closer,” Ziegler told Doug and Wolf Friday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
In response, Doug Franz said it’s weird that a team mentioned among World Series contenders has a closer that isn’t sure if he’s the guy moving forward.
“It’s normal for February,” Ziegler responded. “At least when you don’t have a Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman who has 600 saves and it doesn’t matter if they’re 57-years-old, they’re the closer coming into camp.”
The roles in the bullpen could change. Newly-acquired Tyler Clippard had 53 saves for the Nationals, Athletics and Mets over the last four seasons. Young right-handers Jake Barrett, Silvino Bracho and Enrique Burgos all have extensive minor-league experience in the closer’s role.
Whatever happens, Ziegler is ready for it.
“I’m not changing anything in the way I prepare,” he said. “I’m just waking up every morning and trying to go out — they’ve made it a point this year to get a little better each day, better at something. That way you walk away from practice and you haven’t regressed.”
Ziegler’s versatility helps him accept any role the Diamondbacks hand him. He’s been one of the most effective relievers in baseball since joining the team in 2011 — with a number of different responsibilities.
“For me, it’s fun to be on teams that win,” he said. “And if I’ve got to be the ninth-inning guy to help our team win, I will do it. If they feel like putting me in the seventh-inning role is better for me, I will do that too.”
Ziegler is very aware of his situation. He’s heading into the last year of his deal with Arizona and knows that remaining an effective closer would help him should he reach the open market following the season.
“I’m not naive enough to think that every single team views me as an ideal closer. So, yeah it’s a contract year and I’m a free agent after the season,” Ziegler said. “If I go out and save 50 games this year I still don’t think every single team is going to say ‘hey, we want you to be our closer.'”
Regardless of what role Ziegler finds himself in this season, he can always rely on his ability to induce a pitcher’s best friend — the double play. Since 2011, Ziegler leads all Major League relievers by inducing 56 twin killings.
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