For D-backs, open competition to decide who closes
Reed, Putz, Ziegler and Hernandez all prime candidates for saves
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he was dealt to the D-backs in December, the first text Addison Reed received from one of his new teammates was from J.J. Putz, the man who figures to be Reed's principal competitor for the closer role.
"I've been there," Putz said. "I know how hard it is coming to a new place. I really appreciated, when I got traded to New York, David Wright was the first guy that called."
The role of closer is one of the few spots on the pitching staff that seems to be up for grabs this spring, with Reed, Putz, Brad Ziegler and David Hernandez all possible candidates.
Putz held the role in 2011 and '12, and again last season before an elbow injury landed him on the disabled list and robbed him of the necessary arm speed when he returned.
That opened the door for Ziegler, who took over just before the All-Star break and finished the year with 13 saves in 15 opportunities.
There was no tension in the Arizona clubhouse last year over Putz's demotion, as he and Ziegler are friends and supportive of one another.
Make no mistake, though, Putz, who turns 37 this month, wants to win his job back this spring.
"I definitely want to close, but that's going to be something for Hark and Gibby and everybody to decide," Putz said, referring to pitching coach Mike Harkey and manager Kirk Gibson. "I'm really focused on right now, getting the work in on the mound, staying healthy and the rest will take care of itself."
Reed, who was 40-for-48 in save opportunities for the White Sox last season, is also determined to pitch the ninth.
"Obviously everybody knows I want to close," the 25-year-old Reed said. "That's the only thing I've ever wanted to do."
Ziegler enjoyed his time as closer last year, and would of course like to do it again, but he knows that given his ability to get ground balls he might be more valuable coming into games in the seventh or eighth inning, with men on base.
"Kind of by default I kind of became the guy for a little bit," Ziegler said. "Even last year when I was closing, I didn't care what my role was."
For his part, Hernandez suffered through a miserable 2013. This spring is about a fresh start and a clean slate.
"As far as I'm concerned I'm just trying to get people out at this point and whatever inning that ends up being, I'm just going to try and get three outs," Hernandez said. "I'm just going to try and keep it simple."
Gibson plans on easing the quartet into the competition this spring and he has reminded each of them that he does not want them trying to impress early in camp.
Instead, Gibson wants them focused on getting their arms into shape, and given the elongated camp due to their Australia trip, there will be plenty of time and games to sort out roles.
The temptation to show what he can do is likely strong for Reed, who knows the coaching staff is less familiar with him than the other candidates.
"I just want him to get comfortable here," Gibson said of Reed. "I don't want him to try and impress anybody. We'll have him on a program, it's well thought out."
Even though they both want to close, Putz and Reed say they won't have a problem if they are put in different roles.
"I'm glad they are at least giving me the opportunity and I'm going to do everything I can to win that job when the time is appropriate to win that job," Putz said. "If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. The bottom line is just getting to the playoffs and see what happens."
Said Reed, "I'm here and whatever they have me do is what I'm going to do. As long as I'm out there throwing, I'll be a happy guy."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.