WASHINGTON -- Jorge Julio, who bombed as the Baltimore Orioles' bullpen stopper last year and was traded twice before assuming a similar role with the Diamondbacks, has been replaced as closer by right-hander Jose Valverde.
"The closing job in the big leagues can be a very difficult job, and psychological at that," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said before the final game of a three-game series against Washington on Sunday. "It takes its toll on you. Julio was great early on for us, but he hasn't had the same success. We went with Valverde earlier, so it's time to make the change."
Julio, the right-hander acquired from the New York Mets in exchange for Orlando Hernandez on May 24, piled up 15 saves upon arriving in Arizona and grabbing the closer's role from an ineffective Valverde in late May. But Julio faltered after a stellar June, during which he went 0-1 with six saves in seven chances over 13 appearances.
Since then, Julio is 0-1 with a 6.09 ERA and nine saves in 12 chances over 22 games. In recent outings -- in particular, when he blew Saturday's day game by walking light-hitting leadoff hitter Bernie Castro and then serving up a game-tying two-run homer to Alfonso Soriano -- Julio had reverted to his routine of overthrowing , which has resulted in control issues.
"The problem is, when you struggle for your team, that's a difficult role to struggle in too long," Melvin said.
That led Melvin back to Valverde, who opened the season as the D-Backs' closer, then struggled and was sent to Triple-A Tucson to learn to mix his pitches more effectively. Valverde has 14 saves in 17 chances this year with Arizona, but is also 2-3 with a 6.64 ERA.
"I'm excited to close games," said Valverde. "I worked for that. I went to Tucson and worked with the pitching coach there. And I threw better. I used to throw more fastballs."
Melvin said Julio would get work in less pressure-filled situations. Julio succeeded as a setup man before he closed in Baltimore, and that was his job with the Mets, who had Billy Wagner at the back of their bullpen.
"The tougher outs are often gotten in the eighth inning," Melvin said. "That's when you come in and you've got some traffic out there. You have to make a pitch and get your outs right away. Where in the closer's role, you come in with a clean slate and make your own mess."
Julio accepted the demotion, though he left little doubt what role he preferred.
"I want to close," he said after his Saturday struggles.
Having gone through losing the closer's job with the Orioles, he's at least familiar with the territory.
"I worked for my job," Julio said. "It's a tough job, you know. Sometimes you're pretty good one day, then the next day is bad."
"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell on Sandy Koufax