Holland’s departure sets trend for D-backs, Hazen having a closer problem

Aug 7, 2019, 5:39 PM | Updated: 5:44 pm
Greg Holland (left). (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez). Fernando Rodney (center). (AP Photo/Matt York)...
Greg Holland (left). (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez). Fernando Rodney (center). (AP Photo/Matt York). Brad Boxberger (right). (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
(AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

PHOENIX — In the Arizona Diamondbacks’ third season of the Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo era, there is now a trend developing of stopgap closers becoming a problem for them to rely on.

After Brad Boxberger self-imploded last September, the same happened to a lesser extent with Greg Holland this season. Both players failed to hold the job through the entire season and Holland didn’t even make it on the roster after he was designated for assignment on Wednesday.

Before the series finale against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, Lovullo discussed what led to Holland being let go.

“It was the command, not being able to land pitches or get big outs at times,” he said. “We took a role away from him and we thought it would take some pressure off him but it didn’t get better.”

In 8.2 innings since the start of July, Holland had allowed 20 baserunners, which Lovullo cited.

Boxberger was more inconsistent throughout last season. In April, he allowed a bunch of runners on and didn’t take too much damage, but similar numbers in June brought a spike of a 7.71 ERA over the month that reared its head again in September for eight earned runs in 6.1 innings.

Fernando Rodney was the initial success story in 2017. While fans will remember the agonizing moments with Rodney, after a brutal April, he allowed only 12 earned runs in 45.1 innings and finished with 39 saves on the season.

“Fernando Rodney was still throwing low bullets at 95 miles an hour when he was struggling,” Lovullo said. “It was his command, it was his secondary pitching and good teams were laying off those secondary pitches. He just changed his sequencing a little bit and he got on a great roll.

“I learned that year — if somebody’s showing the stuff, you stick with them.”

That’s what Lovullo was thinking with Boxberger, but the history of how that panned out brought him to not hesitating on Holland.

“And then in Boxberger’s case, it’s been well documented that I maybe stuck with him a little bit too long last year,” Lovullo said. “I just believed in that same turnaround possibility and it didn’t happen and maybe it was two opportunities too many.

“As the discussion turned out, I didn’t want that to happen again so that’s why we moved Greg from that closers role.”

It was more cut and dry with Holland.

“Fernando was an easy one because he still had the stuff. I think Greg’s velocity and command were backing up and we hadn’t seen that improve and that was the real reason why,” Lovullo added.

Rodney is a journeyman while Boxberger and Holland were experienced relievers who had their best success early in their career. All three acquisitions seemingly came “out of nowhere” as a, “really? That guy is getting the ninth?”

To the front office’s credit, they got a decent amount of success out of each name, despite all three having varied endings.

But while Hazen and company certainly have the analytics to back up signing each player, they were low-valued targets that weren’t going to cost much and that certainly factored into why they were brought in.

And it’s possible that’s what the numbers point towards being the most logical way for the D-backs to fill their closer spot.

Regardless, they had it nearly blow up in their face two seasons ago before Rodney hit his stride, and it flat-out did with Boxberger and Holland.

So now the discussion becomes how they should go about getting a closer for next season in an effort to avoid the current trend and the tradition of entering spring wondering who gets the job. A short- and long-term solution, if you will.

“We always tried to find the best candidate possible,” Lovullo said. “Brad had a lot of success in spurts last year … Of course, you’d want that lockdown ninth-inning guy.

“If we can develop him, we may be developing him right now inside of our culture here — I don’t know. I think they’ve been the right guys.”

“There’s the right guy that’s been trying to close it up, it just hasn’t worked for the entire season.”

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