Ziegler joins elite company with 500th outing
PHOENIX -- D-backs reliever Brad Ziegler has never been told that he's the team's closer, even though he has consistently worked the ninth inning since Addison Reed lost the job in mid-May.
Ziegler did, however, join the company of some of the greatest closers of all-time with his 500th appearance on Friday night. Among pitchers with at least that many career outings, Ziegler's 2.49 ERA ranks eighth.
"That's pretty crazy, some of the names that guys talk about that are the best pitchers in the history of the game," Ziegler said. "It's a really neat thing, but for me, I still feel like a lot of the success I've had is because of the teammates I've had."
Among the list are dominant closers such as Mariano Rivera (2.21), Billy Wagner (2.31) and Jonathan Papelbon (2.32), who is the only active player on the list with a lower career ERA than Ziegler. The only two pitchers on the list with ERAs lower than Rivera are Christy Mathewson (2.13) and Walter Johnson (2.16).
Ziegler has had a different approach than many of those guys, even with his new-found success as a closer. The 35-year-old with a side-arm delivery is 10-for-12 in save opportunities this season, converting eight chances in a row and posting a 1.50 ERA overall this season, entering Saturday.
But he doesn't earn saves by striking out batters, like so many of the game's best closers, which is why Ziegler is eager to credit his teammates. Ziegler has 15 strikeouts in 30 innings and his punch-out of Padres third baseman Yangervis Solarte on Friday was his first since May 22.
"I'm hardly ever trying to get a strikeout, I'm just trying to create bad contact," Ziegler said. "I can't live at the belt, I can't live mid-thighs even. I have to be down, I have to be on the edges, or guys are going to hit balls hard off me."
Ziegler said the first time he really felt the pressure of being a closer was when he picked up his second save of the season against the Cubs on May 24 and had to face the fearsome trio of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
But Ziegler notched the save, and has done so consistently for more than a month now, even if he hasn't heard the word "closer" come out of manager Chip Hale's mouth.
"He's doing a good job," Hale said. "He again closed it out [on Friday], did a great job."