Arizona Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen not ready to commit to closer
It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.
But despite last week’s signing of veteran bullpen arm Joakim Soria, Arizona Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen said via Zoom on Monday that he isn’t ready to name a closer just yet.
“I don’t think all that many [bullpen spots have been claimed] honestly,” Hazen said. “That’s the whole nature of the competition. I think [Stefan] Crichton has put himself in a position where he’s going to pitch important innings for us in the bullpen. … Those guys have to seize those jobs.”
Hazen added that the 2021 D-backs are most likely going to have a younger bullpen, so the addition of a veteran to bring leadership to the back end of Arizona’s pitching staff was important. However, the Diamondbacks GM remained tight-lipped on who the team’s next closer will be next season.
“I wouldn’t necessarily phrase it that way,” Hazen said when asked if Soria had a leg up on the competition. “I think he has the most experience and will have every opportunity to compete for that role or get into that role. I would be shocked if he didn’t get appearances in the 9th inning.”
This wouldn’t be the first time in the Hazen era that the D-backs are coming into spring training with uncertainty as to who will be on the bump to close things out for Arizona. And after the departure of Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin at the deadline last season, Crichton finished out the 2020 campaign as the team’s closer.
“We’ve kind of gone into every season — minus maybe the last one or so — where we’ve left that a little open-ended going into spring training to foster competition,” Hazen said. “I know a lot of guys want to pitch in that role. … We want to see how guys come in.
“Crichton finished up the season in that role. I don’t want to just strip that away without having seen him pitch again coming back into spring training. I don’t think that’s entirely fair given what he’s done out in our bullpen. There will be a group of players — a small handful — that we’ll be talking about in that role.”
As a 14-year veteran relief pitcher and two-time All-Star, Soria has his sights set on one goal within the D-backs bullpen.
“That has to be your main goal: To be the guy in the bullpen,” Soria said via Zoom on Monday. “I think everybody that’s been on a Major League Baseball team and in a bullpen role — they want to be the closer.
“Obviously being a closer, you’re an important part of the team and if you have that then you’re doing something good. Probably the main goal for any guy in the bullpen is to be the closer.”
The 36-year-old right-hander also becomes the 12th Mexican-born player (10th pitcher) to don a Diamondbacks uniform in MLB history. Soria added that Arizona’s proximity to his home country and already living in Scottsdale during the COVID-19 pandemic made the D-backs an easy choice.
“The fact that we’re in a Hispanic community, I think I can have an impact in the Hispanic community here — not just playing baseball but on the outside too,” he said. “Being close to Mexico, I like that I can see my heritage coming to the stadium and see all the people there.
“Plus I live here in Arizona which will make it easier for my family, especially during these times. The world is a little crazy and I’d rather be with my family than to be out there.”