J. J. Putz and Eddie Guardado will always be linked in Mariners annals. It was Putz who succeeded a struggling Guardado as Seattle closer...

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J.J. Putz and Eddie Guardado will always be linked in Mariners annals. It was Putz who succeeded a struggling Guardado as Seattle closer in 2006. And it was Guardado who taught Putz the nuances of the split-fingered fastball, transforming his career.

Guardado, in town Monday with the Texas Rangers, has been watching with keen interest from afar the struggles of Putz. The Mariners reliever has had uncharacteristic problems with his control since coming back from a three-week stint on the disabled list for a rib injury.

“He’ll be fine, bro,” Guardado said. “He’s trying to get back in his rhythm after the DL. He’ll find it. Unless something is still bothering him. You never know. J.J. is the kind of guy, he’ll go out and pitch, not like these young kids now. They have a broken fingernail and they won’t pitch.”

Putz has said he’s fully healthy, but entered Monday’s game with a 9.00 earned-run average in five games, with six walks in five innings and a .348 opponents’ batting average.

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“If he’s healthy, he’ll be fine,” Guardado said. “You know how it is: Everything is blown out of proportion, because they’re not winning.”

Guardado believes that sporadic use of Putz may be part of his problem.

“It’s just a matter of getting out there,” he said. “I’m just speaking from experience. With a type of thing like that, you have to pitch, even if it’s a 14-1 ballgame. That’s how it’s going to get better.”

McLaren sticks by rookies

Mariners manager John McLaren said he’s not down on rookies Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien, who entered the game hitting a combined 6 for 32 (.188) since coming up April 30.

“They came in at such a time we weren’t hitting as a team,” he said. “When you go into Yankee Stadium, it’s pretty hostile. I thought they held up all right, truthfully. They’re going to be fine. We took a little extra batting practice with them today, just trying to get them settled down a little bit.

“When you come up, you want to make an instant impact and good impression on everybody, and if it doesn’t happen right away, you might start pressing a little. You start swinging at bad pitches, and I think this is what happened.”

Here we go again

McLaren admitted before the game that he keeps repeating himself about the Mariners’ current predicament, of which an anemic offense has been the main culprit. But he addressed the subject one more time:

“We just ran into a streak where nothing was falling. … Guys do get down on themselves a little bit. It’s our job as a staff to keep them moving, keep them positive. We’ve dug ourselves a hole here. Let’s be honest about it. We’ve got to get ourselves out of it. We’ve got to get going again, start feeling good about ourselves again, swinging the bats, swinging at good pitches, and doing the things we’re capable of doing.

“We’re trying to do too much, not working the count, little things like that, and it shows up. That’s how you lose ball games. [Hitting coach] Jeff Pentland talks about this everyday in the cage, doing drills.

“When you’re not hitting collectively, you try to do too much. You start swinging wildly, you get frustrated, you’ve got this anger inside of you. All teams go through some bad streaks. Hopefully, we’ve gone through ours, and we can get it over with and start playing winning baseball.”

Norton traded to Atlanta

Greg Norton, who was designated for assignment by the Mariners on April 30 along with Brad Wilkerson in the big purge that accompanied the call-ups of Balentien and Clement, was traded to the Atlanta Braves on Monday. The Mariners will receive a player to be named or cash considerations.

Norton, a switch-hitter, had a .438 (7 for 16) average in six games with the Mariners after hitting .409 (9 for 22) at Tacoma.

There is still no word on the status of Wilkerson. The M’s are halfway through the 10-day period in which they can trade, release, or outright Wilkerson to the minors.

Morse stays optimistic

Mike Morse, likely out for the season after left shoulder surgery, has begun rehabilitation and is optimistic about his future.

“Doc said my arm is actually going to be better than I was before,” he said.

Morse hopes to be able to swing a bat in four months and perhaps play winter ball. But his immediate plans are more modest.

“My goal is to cheer these guys on, help the team win any way I can,” he said.

For the record

14-19 .424

Streak: W1

Home: 8-7

Road: 6-12

vs. AL West: 9-6

vs. L.A.: 3-3

vs. Oakland: 3-2

vs. Texas: 3-1

vs. AL East: 3-10

vs. AL Central: 2-3

vs. NL: 0-0

vs. LHP: 2-6

vs. RHP: 12-13

Day: 3-7

Night: 11-12

One-run: 1-8

Extra innings: 0-1

Home attendance

Monday’s crowd: 16,637

Season total: 400,304

Biggest crowd: 46,334 (March 31)

Smallest crowd: 16,637 (May 5)

Average (15 dates): 26,687

2007 average (15 dates): 27,089

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