PHOENIX – The Arizona Diamondbacks opened their 2011 season in grand fashion winning a wild 7-6 nail-biter against the Colorado Rockies in 11 innings.
There were many positive signs to take away from the D-backs’ perspective.
Maybe seeing Ian Kennedy pitch better than All-Star Ubaldo Jimenez or marveling at the power display put on by Miguel Montero and Justin Upton, but nothing was as impressive as seeing the D-backs’ revamped bullpen.
The unit pitched five innings and gave up zero earned runs.
That’s right, the bullpen, who last year was one of the worst in the history of baseball, shut the door on the Rockies allowing the D-backs to hang around until they found a way to win the game.
Most importantly, you can squash all the talk about closer J.J. Putz not being ready for the season.
He came into the game in the ninth inning and did what closers are supposed to do putting the game away in dominant fashion with two strikeouts.
If Putz can solidify the closer’s spot, it will allow the rest of the bullpen to fall into place with everyone’s roles clearly being defined.
Aaron Heilman showed why he was put in the bullpen rather than starting as he struck out the side in his inning of work.
Juan Gutierrez, who gave up two unearned runs because of two throwing errors, was solid picking his team up and working his way out of a jam.
Gutierrez had a rough year last season and it was good to see him face adversity early in the season and have to buckle down.
In addition, the Diamondbacks got to see their first real look at the newly acquired David Hernandez who they got in the Mark Reynolds deal.
Hernandez has great stuff and, if he’s able to harness his pitches and add another set-up man down in the bullpen, the Diamondbacks’ biggest weakness from last season could turn into one of this season’s strengths.
Look, it was only one game and the D-backs are still a couple years away from competing for the division, but it looks like this team won’t have to endure another season of heartbreaking bullpen collapses.