SEATTLE -- It's hard to believe now, but in April, J.J. Putz was merely a setup pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, who already had a closer in Eddie Guardado.
But after a series of missteps by Guardado, Putz stepped into the closer's role and simply ran with it, earning 32 of his 34 saves since taking over the role on May 6.
"The bullpen has been really outstanding and it would have been even better if Eddie was able to close for us," Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said. "But J.J. -- once he was able to get a toehold, he never let it go."
Putz is one of 10 finalists for the DHL Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes the most outstanding relief pitcher of the year.
Voting will take place exclusively at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball. The winner will be announced during the postseason.
Putz has converted 34 of 40 saves with 93 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings this season. Better still, opponents are hitting just .207 against him.
Putz has always thrown hard -- his fastball runs as high as 97 mph -- but the addition of a split-finger fastball made him even more effective this season.
Earlier this month, Putz became only the fifth pitcher in franchise history to record 30 or more saves in a single season.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.