Lovullo names Holland as D-backs closer

March 25th, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It went down to the wire, but in the end, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo decided to go with veteran Greg Holland as his closer over Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano.

The D-backs signed Holland as a free agent at the end of January. His track record for being a closer for both the Royals and Rockies helped his case for earning the role in Arizona.

“It was a hard decision for me,” Lovullo said. “It really was. These guys were very effective, they were getting after it. But I felt like with Holland at the very, very back end with that experience factor it was something I strongly considered.”

Bradley had a breakout year in 2017 -- his first year as a full-time reliever -- and the team put him in a setup role in 2018 when going with another veteran closer in Brad Boxberger.

Hirano, meanwhile, was signed to a two-year deal out of Japan prior to last season and was very effective in a setup role. When Boxberger lost his closer role in September, both Bradley and Hirano got some opportunities to close games.

Lovullo likes to rely heavily on his starting pitchers, challenging them to go seven innings every night.

“I feel very strongly about that,” Lovullo said. “The starting pitchers are the starters for a reason -- they’re the horses of the staff. I feel like the heavy lifting has to be done by those starters and I want to put it on them. I feel like it’s a very capable group, it has been for the past two years. I want them to expect to get 21 outs and go as hard as they can for as long as they can.”

With an offense that didn’t produce on a consistent basis, the D-backs played a lot of close games in 2018, which caused Lovullo to use his backend three of Hirano, Bradley and Boxberger often. Bradley finished fourth in the National League in appearances with 76, while Hirano was right behind him with 75.

That kind of workload might have been a reason the pair were not as sharp down the stretch.

“Those were our guys,” Lovullo said. “They led us to a great September record, first place on Sept. 1 by two games or whatever it was. If I would have gone a different way and lost a game, I probably would have blamed myself for that. The clubhouse would have thought I was crazy. I wouldn’t have changed anything; those guys were in there for a reason. Offensively, we struggled. I think the offense happened to put more pressure on the pitching staff than we wanted to. The pitching staff did all we could. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

This year, Lovullo might be able to take some of that burden off Bradley and Hirano thanks to the presence of Yoan Lopez.

The hard-throwing right-hander came up last September and wowed the staff not just with his stuff, but also with the confident way he carried himself on the mound. If that continues this year, it will give Lovullo another late-inning option.

With T.J. McFarland starting the year on the injured list, Andrew Chafin will be the team’s lone lefty in the bullpen, while right-handers Matt Koch and Matt Andriese will provide length if needed.