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Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart open to acquiring a closer

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Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart said that while current closer Brad Ziegler hasn’t done anything to merit losing his grip on the closer’s role, he would be open to acquiring another closer or at least another high leverage reliever.

Following Saturday’s trade with the Brewers which brought Jean Segura into the fold, the D-Backs have a surfeit of depth up the middle including Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings. One of them could potentially be put in a trade to bring a reliever back to Arizona.

Ziegler, 36, performed quite well as the Diamondbacks’ regular closer last season, saving 30 games in 31 opportunities since taking over on May 21. In his 68 total innings, he struck a grand total of 36 batters but walked only 17 while inducing a rather high amount of ground balls. Among relievers who racked up at least 50 innings last season, Ziegler’s 72.8 percent ground ball rate was bested only by the Orioles’ Zach Britton (79.1 percent). Ziegler isn’t the prototypical closer and given his age, it’s understandable why the club would look for better options elsewhere.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.