8/20/2013 7:33 P.M. ET
Kubel struggling with health, hitting in tough season
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- There is no way to spin it, the 2013 season has been an awful one for D-backs outfielder Jason Kubel.
The 31-year-old has struggled with leg injuries since Spring Training, and it's probably not unrelated that his performance on the field has been well below his career norms.
"His knee has been swelling up on him, so we've been trying to get that under control," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Kubel's left knee. "He's struggled with the bat, really, the second half of last year and this year, and there's maybe different reasons why it's happening, but he's worked extremely hard to try and fix that."
Kubel came into Tuesday's game hitting just .223, with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage at a career-low .624, and his playing time has been greatly diminished in the second half.
"Everybody goes through bumps and bruises and stuff, but it's never affected me like it has this time," Kubel said of his knee. "You put all that together and it makes it pretty rough."
Kubel thinks that he got into some bad habits at the plate this spring, when he was trying to not put too much weight on his left leg.
Kubel got a rare start Monday night against the Reds, and while he struggled against soft-tossing starter Bronson Arroyo, he singled in the ninth off flame thrower Aroldis Chapman.
"He obviously likes it hard," Gibson said, referring to fastballs. "You notice kind of how they pitch him, they kind of waste their fastballs and a lot of offspeed stuff and you've got to stay back on it, and he's had a hard time dealing with that."
Putz looking like former self in different role
CINCINNATI -- J.J. Putz is starting to look like his old self again on the mound, but the D-backs reliever is not likely to move back into his old closer's role at the moment.
Putz spent seven weeks on the disabled list with a strained elbow, and when he returned June 29, his arm speed was not what it had been.
After Putz blew a save in New York on July 1, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson moved him into more of a matchup/setup role, with Brad Ziegler taking over as closer. Ziegler has gone 7-for-8 in save opportunities since.
"I think we'll leave it the way it is right now," said Gibson, adding that Putz lately has looked like he did before the elbow injury.
Putz has a 1.15 ERA in 20 games since coming off the DL.
"I feel more comfortable every time out, just command and stuff," Putz said. "Six weeks is a long time [to be out]. It's like going through Spring Training again. You have to rebuild from square one."
Putz has not complained about losing his closer's role, nor does he plan to.
"It would be one thing if you had guys that were filling in that were not the best teammates, but all the guys in our bullpen are good guys, guys you root for," Putz said. "I'm happy Zig is doing well in that position. If they decide to make the change to move me back in there, he's going to be fine with it, I'm going to be fine with it. If they decide to ride the season out the way it is, I'm not going to cause a ruckus or anything like that.
"I just want to do whatever we can to win games. I know it might sound cliché, but that's just the way I feel. That's the way I was taught to play this game."
Gibson appreciates that team-first approach, but he knows there is some pride involved as well.
"I guarantee you, in his inner self he's motivated to get that job back," Gibson said. "He's got to be."
After Putz got through explaining how he was fine with Ziegler being the closer, he broke into a smile.
"But I'm going to take it back from him next year, I'll tell you that right now," he said.
Nieves making extra effort on blocks behind plate
CINCINNATI -- D-backs catcher Wil Nieves was out early before batting practice Tuesday working on blocking balls in the dirt with catching instructor Glenn Sherlock and backup catcher Tuffy Gosewisch.
Nieves has done an outstanding job at the plate filling in for injured catcher Miguel Montero, and he's also done a nice job of calling games.
Blocking balls, though, is something that he could still use some work on and something on which he continues to put in extra time.
"He's not as much of a blocker," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He likes to try and catch it, and when the ball stays down like that, [it goes through a catcher's legs]."
Gibson has needled Nieves about his blocking as a way of prodding the catcher.
"We've talked about it in a good way," Gibson said. "I said, 'Geez, I don't want to have to bring Tuffy in late in the game for you.' You say it kiddingly -- you're kidding, but you're half serious. He knows it's just a lapse."
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.