Saturday, July 02, 2005

"Bogey" Putz

Is there a reliever in the league that has given up more late-game home runs than J.J. Putz?

You have to feel for the guy. In the deep recesses of his mind, he's hoping that someday he assumes a full-time closer role, here or elsewhere. And yet at least so far in his young career, he's shown a remarkable knack for giving up game-winning dingers.

Taken in the aggregate, his numbers are pretty solid: 2.59 ERA, 25 hits in 31 1/3 innings pitched, 26 strike outs and 13 walks. He's got fastball that touches 95 mph. Last year, he notched nine saves as the primary second-half closer against four blown opportunities. Not great, but it was his first season in the show. By the numbers, he's improved significantly this year.

Except for those darned gopher balls. For the record, he's given up five this season. Granted, four of them came in a two-week span (Jorge Posada, Trot Nixon, Bernie Williams and Jay Gibbons). I guess you could argue that he's improved since then, having gone five weeks since his last one. Nevertheless, tonight's shot by Gary Matthews, Jr. (off of a sinker, no less), broke a 5-5 deadlock and sent the Mariners to their seventh straight loss.

"That was just a dumb pitch to throw at that point," said Putz. I'd have to agree with that assessment.

Let's hope his psyche isn't permanently scarred by these homers. He may never be a closer, but he could be a key set-up man if he can keep the ball in the yard. The operative word in that sentence is if.

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