Mariners welcome back Putz

Mariners welcome back Putz

SEATTLE -- The Mariners activated right-handed reliever J.J. Putz from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday afternoon and simultaneously turned left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith's day upside down.

Putz, who converted 40 of his 42 save chances last season, had been sidelined since June 11 with a hyperextended right elbow before pitching a 1-2-3 seventh inning in Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Indians at Safeco Field.

"I feel really good about it," he said after the Mariners' 6-2 loss to the Indians. "I was able to throw strikes with all three of my pitches and I survived. It was great to get back out there. It would have been great if we had come out with a victory, but all-in-all, I was pleased with the way it went."

He retired Casey Blake on a first-pitch line drive to third baseman Adrian Beltre, set down Jhonny Peralta on a grounder to second base and struck out Shin-Soo Choo on a 96-mph fastball.

To create an opening for Putz on the 25-man roster, the Mariners sent Rowland-Smith to Triple-A Tacoma, where he will be developed into a starting pitcher.

The 25-year-old from Australia, who appeared in 37 games -- including two starts -- this season, has said he prefers starting.

"It was a tough move. Ryan has done a good job," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "It's a combination of No. 1, we've got to find a spot for J.J., and No. 2, we need to get some starters down there who can potentially come up here and help us. [Rowland-Smith] can be one of those guys."

Riggleman said Rowland-Smith was "obviously not really happy" about being sent to the Minor Leagues.

"He wants to be a starter. Any ballplayer's priority is to be in the big leagues, and that surpasses everything else. I'm sure he would love to stay right here and continue to be doing what he's doing as opposed to going down there and starting."

The roster moves were made so close to game time that the clubhouse was closed, making Rowland-Smith unavailable for comment.

He compiled a 2-1 record with a 3.44 ERA and two saves for Seattle this season.

Rowland-Smith replaced starter Miguel Batista in the third inning of Saturday afternoon's game against the Indians and threw 75 pitches over four innings. But even if he had not pitched in that game, Riggleman said the same roster move would have been made Sunday.

"He's the one guy we think of down there who's going to start," Riggleman said. "If we had not used him a lot [on Saturday], that would still be the move today."

Exactly how long it would take Rowland-Smith to be become comfortable in a starting mode is uncertain. His left arm has been stretched out enough that he easily could reach the 100-pitch level in one or two starts with Tacoma.

A September return is extremely possible.

"I can see that," Riggleman said. "In a perfect world, where everybody here is healthy and throwing well, we would bring him back and maybe give everybody an extra day's rest and stick another starter in there, which would be him. Otherwise, he would come back and pitch out of the bullpen.

"But I doubt very much that it will be all the way to September before we see him again."

Putz, who has been on the disabled list twice this season and missed 49 games, made three rehab appearances -- including one Friday night in Tacoma. Just to make sure, he played catch prior to Sunday's game and had no ill-effects from Friday night's 17-pitch outing.

Riggleman said Friday he probably would not immediately use Putz in a save situation and that's the path he chose on Sunday.

"J.J. threw good and didn't have any reservations about any of his pitches," Riggleman said. "He had a nice, clean inning with good velocity. That was encouraging."

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