8/3/2013 7:27 P.M. ET
Thatcher the lefty specialist D-backs envisioned
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
BOSTON -- When the D-backs acquired left-hander Joe Thatcher from the Padres just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, it was for the type of situation they faced Friday.
With the D-backs clinging to a 7-6 lead, the Red Sox had a runner on second base with the left-handed-hitting David Ortiz at the plate.
Manager Kirk Gibson brought in Thatcher, who got Ortiz to pop out to end the threat, and the D-backs wound up hanging on for the win.
"It seems like he's a lot more polished than he used to be, throws a lot more strikes," Gibson said of Thatcher. "He has a lot of deception and different angles and things that he does, and he's able to locate the ball much better than he used to be."
Thatcher had gotten Ortiz out a month earlier when he was in town with the Padres, and from that experience he put together an effective plan.
"I took things that I remembered from a month ago, so I had an idea," Thatcher said. "I had pitched here in Fenway, which is good that you have that experience under your belt, because the first time is always special. I had a plan that I wanted to execute, so it's always nice when you go into the game knowing that you're prepared."
While a left-handed specialist like Thatcher may only face one batter in a game, chances are it is going to come at a key moment and against the other team's best lefty.
"I've done this role my whole career," Thatcher said. "So I've been in big spots before, so I don't ever feel overwhelmed in any spot, which is good. I'm confident I can get out of jams. The role I'm in, I love doing it, so it's a lot of fun."
Gibson keeping thriving relievers in same roles
BOSTON -- Former D-backs closer J.J. Putz has looked better of late, while Heath Bell has been outstanding since being moved out of the closer's role.
But with current closer Brad Ziegler pitching so well in the role, Arizona manager Kirk Gibson is hesitant to make any changes.
"He's been good and he's handled the pressure pretty good," Gibson said of Ziegler.
Since taking over the closer's role from Bell, who took it from Putz when Putz went on the disabled list, Ziegler is 5-for-5 in save opportunities and has allowed just one unearned run in his seven appearances.
Bell, meanwhile, blew his fifth save chance on July 10, and was removed from the closer's role. Since then, he has pitched nine innings over nine appearances and allowed five hits and no walks while striking out 12.
Putz did not immediately regain his closer's role when he came off the DL on June 29, because the team did not feel he had fully regained his arm speed.
Since that time, though, it has improved.
"The ball is coming out of his hand way better, definitely," Gibson said. "Split isn't real good right now, but his slider is. Good [velocity], and he's got a lot more life on his ball right now."
Gibson has long liked Ziegler more in a setup role because he is such a ground-ball pitcher that he is valuable coming into a game with runners on base and getting hitters to ground into double plays.
For now, though, it sounds like the manager is not prepared to disrupt a good thing.
• The D-backs have still not announced starters for their series with the Rays on Tuesday and Wednesday.
With an off-day Monday, the D-backs could decide to skip a fifth starter, or they could choose to keep Zeke Spruill in the rotation and give every pitcher an extra day of rest.
"We're not leaning towards anything at this point," Gibson said. "We just had a discussion."
The team will wait and see how Trevor Cahill looks in his rehab start Monday for Triple-A Reno, as that could play a role in the decision.
• Speaking of the rotation, Gibson generally likes to err on the side of giving his starters an extra day rather than skipping one.
"You can just see when guys get a little tired, maybe they don't come out as sharp, and it takes them a while to get going in their next game," Gibson said. "You give them an extra day, it seems to freshen them up a little bit."
• Heading into Saturday's game, Martin Prado was 19-for-53 (.358) in 14 games since the All-Star break.
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.