Mike Hazen: Diamondbacks’ bullpen sets up favorably for 2024

Nov 3, 2023, 7:30 PM

Kevin Ginkel...

Kevin Ginkel #37 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates after the end of the top of the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers during Game Five of the World Series at Chase Field on November 01, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks reimagined their bullpen with in-season additions of closer Paul Sewald and Ryan Thompson, along with internal call-ups and selections.

The roster changes aided Arizona’s run to the World Series and set up the bullpen to run it back in 2024.

Sewald has one more year of team control, Thompson has two if the D-backs tender him a contract, Kevin Ginkel and Joe Mantiply are arbitration eligible and Luis Frias and Andrew Saalfrank are pre-arb.

When looking at the 2023 season as a whole, general manager Mike Hazen is evaluating the Diamondbacks as the 84-win team they were during the regular season. But he explained the bullpen’s season-long production is a misrepresentation of the group that closed the year.

“The bullpen is now completely different with controllable players who are coming back who can pitch on the back end with a closer,” Hazen said during exit interviews on Thursday. “We didn’t have that the entirety of the season. We all lived the first five months before the deadline, we kicked quite a few games in the eighth or ninth inning.

“So I would hope that going into next year, running it back with this group of guys, plus we’re trying to add, plus I hope the Justin Martinez of the world taking another step forward the way Luis Frias took a step forward … That group is going to be a stronger group than we started the season with, without us doing anything.”

The D-backs also have Scott McGough and Miguel Castro under contract for 2024 and a mutual option for Mark Melancon, who missed the 2023 season due to injury.

Arizona traded for Sewald at the deadline, which pushed Ginkel into a setup role and created what Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo described as a cascading effect on the rest of the unit. The Tampa Bay Rays cut Thompson in August after a couple injury-impacted seasons, and he chose the D-backs to revitalize his MLB career.

Saalfrank debuted in September, becoming Lovullo’s go-to lefty for the final stretch and into the postseason in his first MLB opportunity.

Thompson called the bullpen one of the deepest he’s ever seen with a combination of youth and experience.

“I feel really good about our entire core, from top to bottom,” Thompson told Arizona Sports on Thursday. “We have a lot of young guys, we have some veterans, we have a really good group. As everyone grows and matures and gets better this offseason, I think our bullpen is going to be top 10 in the league next year from from top to bottom.”

From Aug. 16 through the end of the regular season, Arizona relievers had a 3.26 ERA (albeit with a 4.41 FIP), which ranked fifth in MLB. That success translated to the postseason, especially in the back end.

Sewald and Ginkel did not allow an earned run through the National League Championship Series, with the closer 6-for-6 in save opportunities. Sewald had a tough World Series, though, allowing the game-tying home run to Corey Seager in Game 1 and getting tagged with four runs in Game 5.

“You’re trying to try to build off that, that’s the key, especially if you don’t win,” Sewald said on Wednesday. “We obviously have some motivation trying to get back here. Not going to worry about next year’s World Series right now. We have to take a couple days and reflect and get back to work. The process is being ready for spring training.”

One of Hazen’s priorities this offseason will be addressing starting pitching after the D-backs relied on two bullpen games during the postseason.

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Mike Hazen: Diamondbacks’ bullpen sets up favorably for 2024