It did not take long for Diamondbacks’ reliever J. J Putz to realize his major league career was over.
After spending three different periods on the disabled list over the past two seasons, Putz, at age 37, knew the end was near. After designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks last June 20, Putz retreated to his Glendale home and thought about his future.
Two things were certain.
First, Putz was not drawn to coaching. As well, he realized a comeback was out of the question. He knew he could not interest the Diamondbacks or any other team in his services.
For the 2014 season, Putz appeared in only 18 games, sported a 1-1 record, a 6.59 ERA and recorded no saves.
Sitting at home before the All-Star game, though that did not bode well, Putz knew he was through.
Putz began planning for this time since the day he arrived in Sedona Red. Approaching Derrick Hall, the Diamondbacks’ president and CEO, the two entered into casual conversation but nothing specific.
His plans became a reality late last week when Putz was named as Special Assistant to Hall.
While contemplating his future, Putz thought back to his initial contact with Hall and knew the seed for future communication was planted.
Initially, Putz arrived in the desert as a free agent whom then-general manager Kevin Towers believed could regain his previous status as an effective closer. Putz did not disappoint and emerged as one of the most efficient closers for the 2011 season.
His impact was immediate.
Putz turned in the best year of his previous eight year major league career and his ability to save career-high 45 games in 60 appearances helped the Diamondbacks capture the National League West division title.
Coming into spring training this year, Putz found himself in competition for his closer job with Brad Ziegler and Addison Reed. By the time the season began, then-manager Kirk Gibson handed the ball to Reed to slam the door on opponents and the 25-year-old out of Montclair, Calif. proceeded to save 32 games for the Diamondbacks.
All the while, Putz did not forget the initial contact with Hall and began to pursue an opportunity within the Diamondbacks’ organization.
“Since we signed his last contract, he expressed a desire to join the organization,” Hall said before a recent Diamondbacks charity event. “He was so eager. He would say, ’when I can start? Can I come in tomorrow?’ We see J. J. helping on the baseball side as well as the business side.”
For his part, Putz said he is willing to do anything Hall lays before him. Yet, he did make one suggestion.
“Once the season starts, I’d like to go around to all the minor league affiliates and talk to the starters and relievers,” he said. “You know, talk shop. When I started in the Seattle organization, retired players would come around and talk to us. For me, it was so beneficial. Even without touching a ball, I felt I got better.”
One job Hall listed was assisting during spring training. Put on his old number 40, which would have to be relinquished by Andrew Chafin, and help out pitching coach Mike Harley and pitching consultant Dave Duncan, former pitching coach to then-St. Louis manager Tony La Russa and now the Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer.
At this point, that does not appear to interest Putz.
“I don’t see myself on the field,” he said. “I see myself more on the management side General manager some day? Who knows, could be a possibility.”