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D-backs offer open competition in bullpen

Arizona giving veteran relievers opportunity this spring
MLB.com @SteveGilbertMLB

PHOENIX -- Step 1 in building the 2018 version of the D-backs' bullpen focused on trying to strengthen the back end to help offset the loss of free agent Fernando Rodney.

The team felt it did that by trading for right-hander Brad Boxberger and signing Japanese right-hander Yoshihisa Hirano to go along with returning setup man Archie Bradley.

PHOENIX -- Step 1 in building the 2018 version of the D-backs' bullpen focused on trying to strengthen the back end to help offset the loss of free agent Fernando Rodney.

The team felt it did that by trading for right-hander Brad Boxberger and signing Japanese right-hander Yoshihisa Hirano to go along with returning setup man Archie Bradley.

Step 2 took place last week, when the D-backs signed five veteran relievers to Minor League contracts with an invitation to Spring Training.

Right-handers Michael Blazek, Kris Medlen, Fernando Salas and Neftali Feliz along with lefty Antonio Bastardo have different pitching styles and backgrounds, but the signing of them goes along with a strategy the D-backs employed last season to provide competition during Spring Training.

T.J. McFarland, J.J. Hoover and Jorge De La Rosa were among those brought in as non-roster invites last year, and all three provided important innings during the regular season.

"You never know how the rest of the bullpen is going to be put together, and we feel like a lot of these guys have a degree of experience pitching at the back end of bullpens and in the front end of bullpens," D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. "We think that will enhance our ability to put together a really good bullpen coming out of Spring Training."

Video: Bradley, Hirano, Boxberger to vie for closer role

The chief selling point for all of those added was the same -- a legitimate chance to pitch in the big leagues this year.

"I think we offer a nice opportunity for competition because our bullpen is not loaded down with long-term deals," Hazen said. "So I think there's a degree of flexibility that we have and opportunity we give to come in and compete and show what you can do."

There will be all sorts of options for manager Torey Lovullo and his staff to choose from, because beyond the three pitchers at the back end, there would appear to be at least some level of competition for all the other spots.

Andrew Chafin, Randall Delgado, McFarland and Jimmie Sherfy all pitched well last year, but Delgado is coming off an elbow issue and the others will likely have to perform well during the spring.

In addition, the team liked Albert Suarez enough to select him off the Giants roster in the Rule 5 Draft, Jake Barrett took steps forward last year and starter Braden Shipley could be a valuable weapon if they choose to move him to the bullpen.

So the D-backs have plenty of options and plenty of opportunity.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks