Seattle Mariners activate closer J.J. Putz

Updated: July 20, 2008, 8:42 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Mariners closer J.J. Putz looked perfect and sounded relieved after pitching a one-two-three inning Sunday in his return from the 15-day disabled list.

"I feel great," the 2007 All-Star said after a perfect seventh inning in Seattle's 6-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians, which pushed the not-so-great Mariners 22 games under .500.

His final pitch was a darting, 96 mph splitter that Shin-soo Choo swung over -- a hint that Putz might be fully recovered from the hyperextended elbow that had him on the DL since June 12.

"Was able to throw all three pitches for strikes, which was big. And, uh, we survived," said the 31-year-old right-hander, who has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness this season.

"It was nice to get a quick inning ... (I can) build on that."

To make room for Putz on the roster, Seattle optioned left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith to Triple-A Tacoma.

Manager Jim Riggleman said he is still hesitant to use Putz on consecutive days and that Putz could be easing back into a shared closer role with Brandon Morrow. Morrow, the hard-throwing 24-year-old and fifth overall choice in the 2006 draft, had nine saves in 11 chances while Putz was out.

"We're kind of feeling it out right now to see how many days in a row anybody can pitch," Riggleman said after his last-place team's eighth loss in 11 games. "It might be that the combination of the two may be closing down games for us, if we get in that situation."

Riggleman had talked to Putz in the outfield while throwing long toss three hours before Sunday's first pitch. He apparently told him what the manager wanted to hear, because after less than a minute of chatting Riggleman walked off and back into the clubhouse. Putz then pitched for a few minutes on flat ground.

Putz is 2-3 with seven saves in 10 chances and a 4.95 ERA. Last season, he had 40 saves in 42 chances and a 1.38 ERA.

Rowland-Smith, a long reliever who has also made two starts this season for the Mariners, was upset with the move, but Riggleman said Seattle wants to convert Rowland-Smith, who threw 75 pitches in long relief Saturday, into a full-time starter.

"That's a tough move. Ryan's done a good job," Riggleman said. "We've got to get some starters down there who can eventually help us."

Riggleman added the 25-year-old native of Australia could be back and starting for Seattle soon.

"I doubt very much at all that it will be all the way to September until we see him again," the manager said.

Recently strong left-hander Jarrod Washburn, scheduled to start Monday against Boston, is believed to be drawing interest from contending teams in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Supposed ace Erik Bedard is out indefinitely while on the DL for the second time this season. Carlos Silva left Sunday's start after allowing a three-run home run by Kelly Shoppach because of tightness in his lower back, though team doctors expect Silva (4-12) to make his next start.

And 37-year-old Miguel Batista (4-11 with a 6.98 ERA) has struggled, in and out of the rotation. The right-hander allowed eight runs in two-plus innings Saturday while losing to the Indians, but Riggleman said Batista will take his next rotation turn this weekend at Toronto.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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