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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

February 15, 2009 at 9:20 AM

Putz in the sun

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And a little Freddy Garcia as a bonus. That’s J.J. covering third base as part of a fielding drill, with Freddy waiting his turn.

I spent an enjoyable morning talking to Putz and Sean Green, and then watching the Mets’ first workout of the spring. Pretty mundane — a lot of pitcher’s fielding drills — but it was still great to soak up the 80-degree temperature and watch all the time-honored rituals of spring training. Considering the weather I left behind in Seattle, it’s pretty much nirvana here.

J.J. had some very interesting comments about the Mariners that I will post here as soon as I transcribe the tape. Just wanted to pop up a photo here to whet your appetite, and show you Putz for the first time in his Mets’ colors. He is wearing No. 22, having decided it wasn’t wise to take his old No. 20 off the back of Mets’ semi-legend Howard Johnson, the hitting coach here. He saw what happened to LaTroy Hawkins of the Yankees last year, when he took Paul O’Neill’s old number and got booed early in the season before surrendering and taking a different number. Putz said his philosophy is, “It’s just a number.” That’s the kind of attitude that should help him thrive in New York.

Major thanks to Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News for his photo assistance. He gets a save and a hold.

Garcia, by the way, is in Mets’ camp as a non-roster invitee after missing most of last season following shoulder surgery. He’s competing with 52-year-old Livan Hernandez as well as Tim Redding for the No. 5 starter’s job, but Mets’ insiders say Freddy has the inside track if he stays healthy. One ominous sign: He missed time in winter ball with shoulder inflammation.

If Garcia returns to anything close to his old form, the Mets have a pretty formidable rotation, topped by the incomparable Johan Santana, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez. And last year’s Achilles heel, the bullpen, has been addressed nicely with the acquisitions of Putz and K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez. The Mets are also very high on Green as a versatile middle reliever, believing his second-half decline last year was largely because of over-use (or “abuse” as one of their people put it).

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