Qualls looks for opportunities
Closer needs D-backs to provide more save situations
MIAMI -- Doing the job hasn't really been a problem for Chad Qualls this year.
Actually getting the chance to do it has.
On a team like the D-backs that goes into a doubleheader against the Marlins on Wednesday tied for the second-worst record in the National League, it's usually difficult for the closer to get in actual closing situations in the ninth inning.
So consider Tuesday night a rarity.
That's when Qualls gave up a leadoff single to Cody Ross, then struck out Wes Helms looking, forced Emilio Bonifacio into a broken-bat fly out to right field and got Chris Coghlan to chase a two-strike slider in the dirt to end the game and give his team a 5-3 win.
With that, the 30-year-old right-hander, in his first full season as a team's full-time closer, moved to 9-for-10 in save situations and now sports a 2.40 ERA in his 14 appearances this season.
"It felt good," Qualls said about Tuesday's outing. "Obviously I love to get in those games and compete. I love doing what I do."
If only he could do it more often.
Prior to Tuesday, the last time Qualls had pitched was an inning against the Braves on Saturday. But that came in a 12-0 win and was done merely to get him some work. Before that, Qualls went five days without getting in a game -- a stretch when the D-backs were outscored, 30-12, while going 0-4.
"It's tough, but that's the way it is sometimes when you're going to close," Qualls said. "When you set up, you're going to get in games when you're down one or tied, and you're going to throw a lot more. I've been doing that my whole career, but if you mentally just stay strong and just stay prepared and you go out there and you stay fresh, everything will work out."
Qualls, who got a chance to save some games in September of last year, had mostly been a seventh- or eighth-inning guy in his previous five years. And over his last four seasons, he's appeared in no less than 77 games each year -- a number that won't be reached at this rate.
No matter how much a reliever may try, there's no simulating game action -- especially not a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, like Qualls most recently faced.
"When you're throwing a bullpen down in the 'pen, it's definitely not going to simulate a game -- the adrenaline," Qualls said. "You're going to go out there and throw the ball a lot harder if you're in the game than in the 'pen. But you just have to try to keep your arm fresh and just keep your mechanics strong and try to go out there and trust your stuff."
But it isn't just Qualls. With back-to-back rainouts, pretty much the entire D-backs' bullpen is well rested. Something that will come in handy considering they're expected to play 27 innings against the Marlins over the next couple of days, weather permitting.
Just in case it isn't, though, manager A.J. Hinch recalled left-hander Doug Slaten from Triple-A Reno -- optioning first baseman Josh Whitesell after Tuesday's game -- to get an extra arm in the 'pen.
"[Leo] Rosales is on a lot of rest, [Esmerling] Vasquez is on a lot of rest, [Jon] Rauch is on a lot of rest," Hinch said. "All three of those guys that pitched [on Tuesday] can come back, certainly for one of the games - whichever game that would be.
"We're lined up fine. Obviously, if we get caught in a bind where we need to use our bullpen, having that extra arm like Slaten is a good thing."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.