Last year, when I made my annual Florida spring training tour, my first stop was Port St. Lucie to check in with J.J. Putz, newly arrived in Mets camp. In addition to causing a stir with his comments about Ichiro and the dysfunctional Mariners’ clubhouse, Putz also raved about the positive attitude he was already experiencing with the Mets, and the quiet confidence that they would be contenders.
The season, however, was a disaster in every way for the Mets and for Putz. They self-destructed amidst a barrage of injuries and finished 70-92. Putz had arm problems of his own, including surgery to remove a bone spur, and put up a 5.22 ERA in 29 games, hardly forming the dynamic 1-2 punch, along with closer Francisco Rodriguez, that GM Omar Minaya envisioned when he swung the deal. The Mariners’ clubhouse, meanwhile, replaced Disneyland as the Happiest Place on Earth, and the Mariners went from 101 losses in Putz’s last year, to 85 wins in 2009.
Now Putz has dropped a bombshell with an interview he conducted this week with Comcast Chicago (he recently signed with the White Sox). Putz makes a couple of inflammatory charges: One, that the Mets never gave him a physical after the trade with Seattle, and two, they told him not to mention his arm problems to the media. Putz underwent surgery to remove the spur in June. He returned in August, but experienced forearm discomfort and was eventually shut down for good.
Here are the key quotes:
“When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets,” said Putz. “I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training, and the spring training physical is kind of a formality. It was bugging me all through April, and in May I got an injection. It just got to the point where I couldn’t pitch. I couldn’t throw strikes, my velocity was way down.”
“I knew that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know there’s something wrong and they don’t want you telling them that you’re banged up.”
A couple of points: One, the Mets issued a statement saying that they knew about the bone spur when they made the deal with Seattle. The Mariners, it seems clear to me, have no culpability here. It was up to the Mets to do their due diligence on Putz’s health before making the trade. They claim they checked him out thoroughly in spring training, and their medical people cleared him to participate with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
However, this is just another in a long line off medical issues that have brought down the Mets in recent years, and may ultimately help bring down Minaya, whose influence and power is already waning.
Putz, meanwhile, was giving a physical before signing with the White Sox and “passed with flying colors, according to White Sox GM Kenny Williams, who gave Putz and one-year, $3 million deal. It will be interesting to see if Putz, at age 33, can stay healthy and revive his career with the White Sox.
Here are some more links while waiting for Jack Zduriencik’s next transaction: