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Young relievers learning on the job

Young relievers learning on the job

BALTIMORE -- Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre met separately with relievers Mark Lowe and Eric O'Flaherty on Monday, reassuring both young pitchers that better days are ahead.

"I wanted to make sure they have turned the page and today is a new day," the veteran pitching coach said. "It was just a little chat and make sure they were still upbeat."

The mood was definitely downbeat on late Sunday afternoon when O'Flaherty, and then Lowe were unable to protect the two-run lead that starter Felix Hernandez had given them after eight innings. The Orioles rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a 3-2 victory.

The Mariners have played most of the regular season without All-Star closer J.J. Putz and without a veteran backup around to fill in, manager John McLaren is using O'Flaherty, Lowe and right-hander Sean Green to protect late-inning leads.

Putz, who registered a save in his first outing, followed by a blown save the next night after he suffered a rib injury, currently is on the 15-day disabled list. He's eligible to be activated on April 17, but it's too soon to know if he'll be ready by then.

"J.J. was the first person I saw when I walked into the clubhouse today and he apologized," McLaren said during his media session prior to Monday afternoon's series finale against the Orioles. "He feels responsible for this [2-4 start] and, of course, he isn't.

"I asked him not to do anything crazy and come back too soon. We'd be back to Square 1."

Putz could start playing catch by the end of this week, at which time a better reading on when he might return can be made.

In the meantime, save situations figure to fall into the hands of O'Flaherty, Lowe and Green -- barring the promotion of someone from the Minor Leagues. There's a possibility that veteran left-hander Arthur Rhodes will join the team either before, during or after the three-game series against the Rays, which begins on Tuesday night.

"We have confidence in those guys," McLaren said of O'Flaherty and Lowe. "It was just one of those games they were not able to get done. If the situation calls for it today, they are ready to go back out there. It's a growing-up process for them, too, and we know what they are capable of doing."

One thing O'Flaherty is capable of doing is perform better against left-handed hitters than he has so far this season. Lefties are 4-for-7 against him.

"I feel he needs more concentration and start doing what he's supposed to do," Stottlemyre said. "He makes some good pitches to them, but then makes a mistake and doesn't finish them off."

As for Lowe, who faced three batters in Sunday's debacle, Stottlemyre sensed that the pitcher was trying too hard. "Initially, I was concerned he was missing so far with some of his pitches that appeared he was overthrowing. But it was a situation he hasn't been in before [at the MLB level] and he said he learned some things."

"It's important to learn, move on and not make the same mistakes again."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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