Putz placed on DL with rib inflammation
Mariners closer felt discomfort as he threw pitch on Tuesday
SEATTLE -- J.J. Putz said he doesn't know how to pronounce the word costochondritis, but the sullen look on his face Wednesday afternoon showed he's well aware that it means "huge buzzkill."
The Mariners' All-Star closer was placed on the 15-day disabled list after a Wednesday magnetic resonance imaging test revealed the condition, which is mild inflammation in the area of Putz's lower right side where cartilage attaches to his 10th rib. Right-hander Roy Corcoran was called up from Triple-A Tacoma to take Putz's place on the roster.
Head trainer Rick Griffin said Putz will accompany the Mariners on the imminent road trip to Baltimore and Tampa Bay and will let the injury "quiet down" for a few days before resuming cardio exercises and progressing to throwing. There is no timetable for his return.
Putz blew his first save opportunity of the season Tuesday night by allowing a two-run home run to Josh Hamilton in the ninth inning of the Mariners' 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his second appearance in as many games after securing the save with a 19-pitch effort in the Mariners' 5-2 win over Texas on Monday.
On Wednesday, Putz said he first felt the pain while pitching to the batter before Hamilton, shortstop Michael Young. On the third pitch, a split-fingered fastball, Putz said he felt the sensation of "an ice pick stabbing me in the side," but he added that he didn't consider taking himself out of the game.
"No," he said. "Not really. I tried to get out of the inning."
Catcher Jamie Burke said he could sense a change in the quality of Putz's stuff but said the closer is too deft at hiding emotions to have tipped his hand to an injury.
"Something wasn't right," Burke said. "To me, the ball wasn't as heavy as it usually was, and his split was kind of doing something different. Guys were on his fastball a bit. ... I didn't know if he was tired or if he was OK."
Griffin indicated that if there's any good news for the Mariners regarding an injury to one of their franchise players three days into a season loaded with hope and expectations, it's that this could have been a lot worse.
And while Putz couldn't hide his disappointment, he said he wasn't completely defeated by the news.
"When I heard what it was, it was encouraging," Putz said. "It's the best of the bad news."
In other words, according to Griffin, it doesn't appear to be as severe as an oblique or intercostal strain, soft-tissue injuries that take a lot longer to heal.
Griffin likened the injury to former Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki's three fractured ribs suffered while infamously carrying luggage up a flight of stairs in 2003, but Griffin added that Putz's injury is much less serious because he doesn't have broken ribs. Sasaki was out of action for five weeks.
"When Dr. Robert Liddell looked at the MRI, the words he characterized [what he saw] were 'mild,'" Griffin said.
What isn't mild is the effect Putz's absence could have on a team trying to make a big April statement in the American League West, with the favored and defending champion Angels weakened by injuries to their top two starters, John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar.
"It's big any time you lose a guy of that caliber," Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn said of the man who won the AL Rolaids Relief Man Award last year and hadn't blown a save since Aug. 1.
"It's a big blow to a ballclub, but we have a lot of talent down there in the bullpen, and hopefully it's a short-term thing. I think we'll be OK for two weeks."
In the meantime, manager John McLaren has to figure out what to do for the ninth inning. Right-hander Mark Lowe would seem to be the favorite for the temporary role considering his mid- to high-90s fastball, but he's pitched in the first two games and he's still not far removed from elbow surgeries in late 2006 and early 2007.
Other options include right-hander Sean Green, lefties Ryan Rowland-Smith and Eric O'Flaherty, righty Cha Seung Baek and now Corcoran, who was one of Seattle's final cuts of the spring.
Corcoran spent the 2007 season at Triple-A Albuquerque in the Florida Marlins organization, going 4-4 with a 3.54 ERA in 53 relief appearances. He finished fourth in the Pacific Coast League with 15 saves. He also has pitched in the Majors in parts of three seasons with Montreal/Washington (2003, 2004, 2006).
"We just have to pull together and get the committee signed up," McLaren said. "We're going to go out there and do it as a bullpen and mix and match. We'll do the best we can. We know they're not J.J., let's be honest about it, but we have very comparable people out there. I know we'll rally around J.J. and pull together until he gets back."
Lowe, who threw all of six pitches Tuesday night and three pitches Monday, said he didn't expect to be allowed to go Thursday night but wouldn't turn the opportunity down if offered.
"I haven't had a huge workload," Lowe said. "I can go."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.