March 9, 2010 in Sports

M’s face a happier Putz

Now with White Sox, reliever feels things are going his way
Bob Condotta Seattle Times
Associated Press photo

J.J. Putz, left, talks with Bobby Jenks.
(Full-size photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The J.J. Putz who last year questioned the chemistry of the Mariners’ clubhouse in 2008, and last month was quoted as questioning the handling of his injured elbow by the New York Mets in 2009, was nowhere to be found Monday.

Instead, after he made his first appearance against the Mariners since being traded from Seattle in December 2008, Putz sounded happy and relaxed. That’s in part because he again feels at home, in the familiar confines of the American League and with a team, the Chicago White Sox, that trains near his Arizona residence.

“Everything feels good,” he said after pitching a scoreless inning for the White Sox in a 5-4 Mariners win, one of two games Seattle played Monday.

In the first of two split-squad days of the spring, the Mariners lost 6-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers in Maryvale.

The Mariners won in Glendale thanks in large pitch to the hitting of Matt Tuiasosopo, who was 3 for 4 with two runs batted in while playing the first five innings at shortstop, and solid pitching that allowed just six hits.

They lost in Maryvale largely due to shoddy fielding that included an error by Jose Lopez playing third base.

But this is spring, when what matters most is getting ready for the season.

And for Putz, No. 2 on the Mariners’ all-time save list with 101 and first in earned-run average at 3.07, that meant throwing a pain-free inning.

Putz was the centerpiece of the three-team deal that brought Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle, the Mets hoping Putz would combine with Francisco Rodriguez to form one of the best bullpens in baseball.

Instead, Putz never found his groove, then began feeling pain in his elbow in May (eventually diagnosed as bone spurs), and sputtered to a lost season – 1-4 with two saves and a 5.22 ERA in 29 games before shutting it down in June.

“It was very frustrating, especially when you get traded for that many guys (there were 11 other players in the deal) and you’re not able to perform and not healthy,” he said. “It was not a lot of fun.”

He was quoted last month saying the way the Mets handled his situation was “a mess.”

Monday, he said he didn’t mean to impugn the Mets, that instead he merely meant the season itself was a mess.

“I have no hard feeling with the Mets,” he said. “If anything, it’s just frustrating. I feel disappointed that I wasn’t able to contribute the way I wanted to.”

It was roughly a year ago that he said he couldn’t be happier to be with the Mets and away from a Seattle squad where he felt there were some players “that just aren’t really team guys.”

But Monday, he said any excitement over the trade was not at getting away from the M’s but “about the possibilities of what could happen” with the Mets.

“I loved Seattle,” Putz said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email