The Red Sox season has been a season filled with great surprises. Mookie Betts has had a breakout year and is in MVP contention, Xander Bogaerts continues to establish himself as one of the best hitters in the league, and David Ortiz is having perhaps the best farewell season ever. These players will rightfully grab all the headlines, but there is one veteran player who deserves his honors as well.
Even though he was acquired in early July and has only appeared in 14 games, Brad Ziegler has been an asset in the bullpen. When both Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara went down to injury, Ziegler stepped up and succeeded in the closer role. It is nice to see the 36 year-old succeed in Boston, but it feels even better once you hear his journey.
Ziegler was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round of the 2003 draft, released a year later, and started pitching in an independent league in Illinois. The Oakland Athletics gave him another crack at the majors in 2004, which started a three-year stint in the minors. Ziegler finally made his debut in 2008 but not the way he envisioned back in 2003 when he was drafted.
Ziegler was drafted as your standard starter pitcher but that clearly wasn’t punching his ticket to the MLB. Ziegler was reinvented by A’s minor league pitching instructor Ron Romanick, turning the struggling starter into a submarine style reliever. After making the switch, Ziegler spent a year and half in the minors. Ziegler made his debut in 2008 and has not looked back.
The move paid off for the A’s, as Ziegler produced a 2.49 ERA, 154 strikeouts, 19 saves and 49 holds in four years with the team. Ziegler’s best year came in his first year, as teams were still trying to figure him out. Ziegler posted a 1.06 ERA, 30 strikeouts, 9 holds, and 11 saves in 2008.
The move to a submarine style pitcher obviously worked well and changed Ziegler’s life forever, as he has earned over $22 million dollars in his major league career. Ziegler is appreciative of Romanick and the A’s organization saying, “He knows. I’ve seen him occasionally down the road. They were willing to put in the effort to try and teach it to me. That was the first time any team was making any commitment to me.”
A strong bullpen is key to a team winning in October. When the Sox traded for Ziegler back in July, it came from a place of need. Now with Kimbrel healthy, the two give the Sox a formidable backend of the bullpen.
Ziegler has come a long way from the A’s farm system to where he is now. The 36 year-old has the opportunity to be a vital part of a Red Sox team looking to bringing home another World Series championship to Fenway.