<
>

Putz placed on 15-day DL with rib cage injury

SEATTLE -- The one player the Seattle Mariners thought they could count on most during their season of high expectations is gone after just two games.

All-Star closer J.J. Putz went on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a ribcage injury, leaving Seattle with a closer-by-committee indefinitely.

Asked if he was "bummed" Putz nodded his head up and down, gave a cold, blank stare and said, "That's a pretty safe comment."

Seattle filled his roster spot by purchasing the contract of right-hander Roy Corcoran from Triple-A Tacoma.

"Nobody wanted to see that happen, especially with the high hopes this year," Corcoran said of how he got to the Mariners for the first time.

Putz, who converted 40 of 42 save opportunities last season, blew one Tuesday night by allowing a go-ahead home run to Texas' Josh Hamilton in the top of the ninth inning. Putz said he felt pain "like an ice pick stabbing me in the side" on a pitch to the batter before Hamilton. A doctor reading an MRI exam Wednesday morning said Putz had mild inflammation where the cartilage attaches to a rib on his right side.

"When I heard what it was, it was encouraging. It was the best of the bad news," said Putz, who was still in pain on Wednesday when he moved his torso.

Putz blew his first save in his second game of the season, after saving Seattle's win Monday. He didn't blow his first save last year until July 25.

"I knew pretty much last night we were going to miss some time, because of how sore it was," he said. "It was sore on every pitch."

Putz will be with the team when it leaves Thursday for its first road trip of the season, to Baltimore and Tampa Bay.

"I actually feel better today than I did (Tuesday night)," Mariners manager John McLaren said. "I didn't sleep one minute with the thought of what could have been with J.J.

"When I got the news today, I felt very positive."

The Mariners were relieved Putz didn't have severe inflammation or something requiring a long recovery time, such as a strained oblique muscle. Reluctant to provide an exact timetable, head trainer Rick Griffin said Putz would not be out as long as former Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki was in 2003 with broken ribs in an area similar to Putz's swelling. Sasaki missed two months.

Griffin said reserve infielder and outfielder Willie Bloomquist had a similar injury to Putz's in 2004. He missed 19 days.

Yet Putz being out for even two weeks could hurt Seattle's hopes to get a jump start on the AL West lead over its chief rivals, the Los Angeles Angels. The division champions three of the last four years are missing two starters plus their primary setup reliever. They also have a tougher early season schedule than the Mariners.

The Mariners were 75-0 last season when leading after eight innings, thanks to Putz, and they are hoping to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001 largely because they know they have one of the game's most dominant closers. Putz was 6-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 68 games of 2007, with 82 strikeouts and just 13 walks.

Now, as McLaren said, "Got to go get the committee signed up."

The first option to be closer for a day is Mark Lowe. He is coming off two elbow surgeries in the last 19 months. Then it's unproven Eric O'Flaherty, 23, and Sean Green, a 28-year-old who has yet to pitch a full season in the major leagues.

"We know they aren't J.J., let's be honest about it," McLaren said.

"We are going to mix and match them all."