D-backs face closer competition during camp
PHOENIX -- The D-backs have late-game options in the bullpen, which also means they have a decision to make over the next seven weeks -- who is going to be the closer?
Archie Bradley returns after a dominating season as the setup man to Fernando Rodney, who left via free agency. Bradley will be joined in the back end of the bullpen by Brad Boxberger, who was acquired from the Rays, and Japanese free agent Yoshihisa Hirano.
Here's a look the case for and against each of the three:
Case for closing: Bradley earned the closer's role by the way he pitched last year, compiling a 1.73 ERA in 73 innings.
After losing out on the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation during the spring, Bradley quickly adopted to pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his career. He started out as a long man, but quickly proved to be the team's most reliable reliever and at times was used for multiple innings to set up Rodney.
Bradley's fiery personality seems to thrive on adrenaline, and that could be a big asset for him in a closing role.
Case against closing: In some ways, Bradley's ability to throw multiple innings works against him because it makes him attractive for an Andrew Miller-type role -- getting out of an important jam in the seventh, and then tossing the eighth before turning things over to the closer.
Case for closing: Of all the candidates, Boxberger has the most experience closing in the big leagues. The right-hander was an All-Star for the Rays in 2015 when he saved 41 games, so he knows how to deal with the ups and downs that come with pitching the game's final inning.
Boxberger has been dominant in his career as well, striking out 14.5 batters per nine innings in 2014 and 10.6 in '15.
Case against closing: Boxberger has had each of his last two seasons cut short due to injury, appearing in a total of 57 games over that span. Would he be able to hold up to the demands of closing?
D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said the club went through a full medical check with Boxberger and they feel good about his health. Hazen pointed out that Boxberger finished last year with a 0.96 ERA in his final nine appearances.
Case for closing: Hirano had tremendous success as a closer in Japan. Over the past five seasons, Hirano served as his team's closer and he led the NPBL in saves with 40 in 2014. His fastball-split combo leads to the number of strikeouts you would like to see from a closer, and from what the D-backs could tell, he has the right makeup and demeanor.
Case against closing: It is hard to judge how Hirano will do when facing big league hitters for the first time. There will be enough pressure on him to begin with, so is it really wise to throw him right into the closer's role as well?