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March 17, 2007 at 3:55 PM

Cautious rehab for Putz

So, the Mariners did lose 4-1, but the big news of the day remains J.J. Putz, who won’t be throwing that bullpen session just yet. Turns out, the plan is for Putz to merely play some catch on Tuesday and then progress from there.
Spoke to Putz and to trainer Rick Griffin moments ago about the mild strain of the flexor pronator muscle near the closer’s right elbow. The muscle is an important one, since it controls the flexing action in a pitcher’s wrist and helps generate his velocity when he throws.
Both Putz and Griffin — who termed the less-than-severe injury “great news” — were as optimistic as they could possibly be about the turn of events. But that still doesn’t mean Putz will be ready to throw on opneing day.
“First of all, I’m not the pitching coach or the manager so I’m not going to say that,” Griffin said. “We’re still optimistic. I know J.J.’s optimistic. As long as we progress without any setbacks or any bumps in the road, there’s always a chance.”
Not exactly unbridled optimisim. But Griffin is correct in pointing out that there will be a lot of games played between the April 2 opener and the season finale. A big test will be to see how the elbow responds to the series of gradual steps the team puts Putz through. Those steps will only progress if Putz can get through them without any discomfort. In other words, no toughing things out, as pitchers have been known to do when it comes to minimal arm pain and stiffness (hello George Sherrill).
“We don’t want him to pitch in discomfort and that’s our goal,” Griffin said. “If that is the case, then we’ll deal with that as we come along. But we’re not going to go out there and ask him to pitch in discomfort at the beginning of the season or the end of spring training when we have 162 games.”
Putz insists he was never all that worried and that the MRI and subsequent arthrogram in his arm were only precautionary. It was the latter procedure, in which red dye was injected in the elbow so any abnormalities would show up better in an X-ray, that is causing the delay in Putz’s return to throwing.
The dye needs a couple of days to dissipate. After that, Putz says, he won’t need much time to prepare for the season.
“I probably just have to pitch against hitters, probably once would be fine,” he said. “I felt good the two games that I did throw in. So, it’s just a matter of building the arm strength back up, which shouldn’t take too long.”
Putz also isn’t worried about needing to throw on back-to-back days. He says that has never bothered him and that his only previous difficulties have been when having to pitch three consecutive contests. It’s a situation, he adds, that doesn’t often arise in April.
By the way, Griffin points out that two pitchers have already had the same arm problem in camp this spring and are both able to pitch. So, on the face of it, this does not appear to be the season-threatening thing officials here were very worried about just 48 hours ago. We’ll know more come Tuesday.

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