M's activate closer Putz from 15-day disabled list

SEATTLE -- Closer J.J. Putz is back for the Seattle Mariners, and staff ace Erik Bedard may soon be following.

Putz, the Mariners' All-Star stopper, was activated from the 15-day disabled list for Tuesday's game against Baltimore after missing 18 games with a ribcage injury. To make room, Seattle sent veteran right-hander R.A. Dickey to Triple-A Tacoma.

Putz pitched the ninth of Seattle's 4-2 win for his second save in three chances in his first appearance since April 1.

Meanwhile, Bedard threw a strong, 45-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday, and is expected to return to the Mariners rotation on Saturday when they host Oakland.

"He threw on the side today and he felt really strong," manager John McLaren said.

Bedard is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday, but his return is being pushed back in order to give him another throwing session in the bullpen. It will also split the two left-handers in Seattle's rotation.

Lefty Jarrod Washburn will now start on Thursday against Baltimore, with right-hander Miguel Batista on Friday versus Oakland and then Bedard.

"It might not be that big a deal, but it some cases it is a big deal," McLaren said of splitting up Washburn and Bedard, noting that last year the Mariners had problems when Washburn and lefty
Horacio Ramirez started on consecutive days.

Bedard, acquired from Baltimore in a February trade, went on the disabled list April 15, retroactive to April 9, with inflammation in his left hip that caused him to miss his second scheduled start of the season. He returned to win in Tampa Bay on April 8, but was scratched on April 13 against the Angels, before going on the DL.

Putz pitched in the first two games of the season, but noticed discomfort in his ribs during his second appearance, a night where he allowed a game-winning homer to Texas' Josh Hamilton in the ninth inning of Seattle's 5-4 loss. Last year, Putz converted 40 of 42 saves.

With Putz out, McLaren went closer-by-committee, with Batista,
Mark Lowe and Ryan Rowland-Smith all picking up saves. But McLaren also felt handcuffed, typically having two relievers ready for the ninth inning if needed.

"I think the bullpen held up real well. Now we can get guys back in their roles," McLaren said. "We're past that and I think with the experience some of these guys got, it was good for them. I think they responded really well."

Dickey, the veteran knuckleballer who appeared in spring training to earn a roster spot but ended up in Triple-A, was disappointed with his demotion. He started in place of Bedard last Friday against the Angels, but gave up five runs in six innings and got the loss.

He will be a starter at Triple-A, and McLaren expected Dickey back with the Mariners at some point this season.

"A lot of guys in this clubhouse are my friends and I want them to do well, and getting Bedard back helps," Dickey said. "Putz had to come off today, they had to make a move and I understand the business of that. Again, still isn't any easier to swallow."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.