Notebook | Putz passes test, will open season with M's
Minor-league games usually don't see a contingent of top brass in the stands holding their collective breath. But that was no ordinary guy...
Seattle Times Staff Reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — Minor-league games usually don't see a contingent of top brass in the stands holding their collective breath.
But that was no ordinary guy on the mound for Seattle's minor-leaguers on Tuesday. Mariners closer J.J. Putz got the one-inning "start" and allowed a run on a wind-aided hit while throwing 15 pitches, all but two of them fastballs.
When the stint ended, with Putz striking out San Diego Padres minor-leaguer Jack Cust with a split-fingered pitch, the sighs of relief were audible. In attendance were M's general manager Bill Bavasi, manager Mike Hargrove, pitching coach Rafael Chaves and trainer Rick Griffin.
"Just getting through it healthy was real important," Hargrove said. "My stomach has finally turned right-side up."
Hargrove said Putz would get one more outing, on Friday in Las Vegas. There's a slight chance he would pitch again on Saturday, but it's unlikely.
The plan is then to bring Putz north with the club, despite the fact he has yet to throw in back-to-back games and probably won't this weekend.
"It'll have to be enough," Hargrove said. "It's not ideal but ... it is what it is. It has to be enough."
Putz threw two sliders and three split-finger fastballs in the outing. He failed to land any first-pitch strikes and missed up in the zone a few times. But he felt fine after his first outing against live hitters since his only previous Cactus League appearance on March 5.
"It was free and easy, and it felt good," Putz said, adding that his velocity would likely pick up once the regular season begins. "It's probably going to get better once you get up north with the intensity level.
"It's kind of hard pitching in a sandbox like that. I don't know if it was the sand. The intensity level's probably going to bring everything up a little, so I'm not too worried about it."
M's lose 9-8
The M's nearly pulled off an improbable comeback on Tuesday, scoring five runs in the ninth inning and loading the bases with two out before finally succumbing, 9-8, to the San Francisco Giants. Adam Jones recorded the final out, scorching a line drive into the third baseman's glove as 8,011 fans at Peoria Stadium leaped to their feet in anticipation.
Seattle starter Horacio Ramirez had placed his team in a huge early hole, giving up seven runs in the first four innings to trail 7-1. Some of the 11 hits Ramirez yielded over his six innings appeared to be wind-aided, but he also had mechanical problems that contributed to his sinkers being too low.
He tried to compensate by elevating his pitches and yielded three doubles — one off the fence in left center by Barry Bonds in the third inning — and a two-run homer by Eliezer Alfonzo in the fourth. But Ramirez seemed to settle down the final two innings.
"I was happy with the way I finished," said Ramirez, who will likely get one more minor-league outing in Las Vegas on Saturday before his April 6 start in Cleveland. "I wasn't tired at all. My movement was crisp. I think that I finished on a positive note. I think sometimes results are deceiving. You look up and see seven [runs] and 11 [hits]. But a few of those hits were dinkers."
Bullpen bats .500
The team's middle-relief puzzle took a step forward and another one back on Tuesday as lefty George Sherrill looked the strongest he has all spring while set-up man Chris Reitsma struggled. Sherrill allowed a leadoff single in the eighth but got out of the inning on a foul pop-up to the catcher and a double-play grounder.
Reitsma though, allowed two walks and a single in the seventh, giving up a pair of runs. The right-hander has allowed runs in two outings after tossing four scoreless innings.
• Richie Sexson popped up balls in all three of his at-bats, but one of them dropped in to shallow center field to score a run. Sexson, hitting .170, has eight runs batted in this spring on just eight hits — only one for extra bases.
• Given the uncertain state of the bullpen, it seems almost a given that Brandon Morrow and his high-90s fastball will be heading to Seattle.
• Yuniesky Betancourt was a late scratch from the lineup. He was sent to minor-league camp to work on his bunting.
Tuesday's box score
|Roberts cf||4||0||0||0||Ichiro cf||3||1||1||0|
|Timpner cf||1||0||0||0||Jones cf||3||1||1||0|
|Vizquel ss||3||0||0||0||Lopez 2b||3||0||1||1|
|Frandsen ss||1||0||0||0||Chen 2b||2||0||0||0|
|Bonds dh||2||1||1||0||Vidro dh||3||0||0||0|
|Sweeny ph-dh||2||1||0||0||Halman ph-dh||1||1||0||0|
|Durham 2b||3||1||2||0||Ibanez lf||3||0||2||0|
|DeLaRsa pr-2b||1||1||0||0||Reed pr-lf||1||3||1||1|
|Feliz 3b||4||1||3||1||Sexson 1b||3||0||1||1|
|Minicozzi 3b||1||0||0||0||Dawkins pr-3b||2||1||1||2|
|Winn rf||3||0||0||1||Guillen rf||2||0||0||0|
|Ellison rf||0||0||0||0||Saunders rf||2||0||2||0|
|Niekro 1b||3||1||1||2||Morse 3b-1b||5||0||1||1|
|Linden lf||4||2||3||0||Burke c||2||0||1||0|
|Alfonzo c||4||1||3||4||Rivera c||3||0||1||2|
|San Francisco||041 200 200||—||9|
|Seattle||001 001 015||—||8|
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