Putz won't be overworked down stretch

Putz won't be overworked down stretch

CLEVELAND -- The schedule still says it's 2008 and the Mariners are playing like it's still their No. 1 focus, but when it comes to J.J. Putz's health, all that matters is 2009.

Yes, Putz is still the Mariners' closer for the rest of the season, and if a save situation presents itself Monday, as Seattle opens up a three-game series with the Rangers in Arlington, look for the 6-foot-5, 250-pound fireballer to come charging out of the bullpen.

But that's only because Putz was shut down for Sunday's series finale against the Indians.

After pitching in consecutive save situations, Putz went to manager Jim Riggleman and said he was feeling a little tenderness in his arm and could use a break, though he could come in and face a couple batters if necessary.

Riggleman, who shut down Putz earlier in the week to the closer's dismay, was more than happy to oblige.

"We're kind of in Spring Training mode with him," Riggleman said. "We're trying to get everything straightened out for '09 with J.J."

For the most part, things have straightened out for Putz since he returned from his second stint on the disabled list (hyperextended right elbow) this season. He is 4-1 with three saves, 20 strikeouts and a 3.26 ERA in 19 appearances since returning July 20 after missing a month and a half. His trademark velocity has also remained consistent, as he has maintained a 95-96-mph fastball to go along with a nasty split-finger.

But the hiccups have still been there, the most recent coming Saturday against the Indians, when he weathered his eighth blown save of the season.

With the leadoff runner on first, Putz pigeonholed himself into just throwing fastballs to Shin-Soo Choo after he fell behind in the count. On the sixth one, Choo made him pay with a 400-foot, two-run homer to tie the game.

"It wasn't necessarily a bad pitch," Riggleman said. "If he had located one of those earlier fastballs, he could have thrown a split."

It was all the more reason for a day off Sunday.

"I probably wouldn't have used him anyway, even if he hadn't come in." Riggleman said. "We haven't used him three straight days for quite some time. Even if we can, we haven't."

In fact, Putz hasn't pitched three straight days all season. Before this weekend, he had only pitched on back-to-back days four times and just once since he returned from the DL.

So needless to say, even if the Mariners continue their recent winning ways with another road sweep at Texas, don't expect to see Putz's name on all three box scores.

Pitching matchup
SEA: RHP Carlos Silva (4-14, 6.36 ERA)
Silva will make his first start since he was put on the disabled list two weeks ago with right triceps tendinitis. Silva felt soreness in his elbow after his last start, which came Aug. 15 against his former team, the Twins. The Mariners were feeling a little sore after the outing as well. The 29-year-old right-hander was rocked for nine hits and nine runs over 3 1/3 innings to pick up his 14th loss of the season. In his last five starts before he went on the DL for the fourth time of his career, Silva racked up an 11.39 ERA and had struck out as many as he walked. In three starts against the Rangers this season, Silva is 1-0 with a 5.17 ERA. Lifetime, he is 4-4 with a 4.76 ERA in 12 starts.

TEX: LHP Matt Harrison (6-3, 5.67 ERA)
Harrison beat the Royals, 3-2, on Wednesday by holding them to two runs in 6 2/3 innings. He possesses good fastball command but must mix in his slider and changeup. He is 5-2 with a 4.35 ERA in his last seven starts, but one of those losses was to the Mariners in Arlington on July 31, when he allowed six runs in 42/3 innings. He is 3-2 with a 5.01 ERA at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Tidbits
Mariners starters have recorded eight consecutive quality starts. It's the longest such stretch since they recorded 10 straight from Sept. 4-14, 2003. ... Seattle has won seven of its last nine games. ... When they score four or more runs, the Mariners are 45-31. When they score less, they are 8-52. ... Adrian Beltre has hit safely in has past seven games, batting .414. ... Raul Ibanez went 6-for-12 with one home run and five RBIs in the Mariners' sweep of the Indians over the weekend. During the month of August, he batted .396 with seven homers and 31 RBIs, which equaled his career best.

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Up next
• Tuesday: Mariners (Ryan Feierabend, 0-1, 6.00) at Rangers (Brandon McCarthy, 0-0, 1.80), 5:05 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Mariners (Felix Hernandez, 9-8, 3.27) at Rangers (Dustin Nippert, 1-4, 7.53), 11:05 a.m. PT
• Thursday: Off-day

Andrew Gribble is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.