After J. J. Putz blew his first save of the season Wednesday in Texas, Mariners manager John McLaren went up to the All-Star closer, shook...
After J.J. Putz blew his first save of the season Wednesday in Texas, Mariners manager John McLaren went up to the All-Star closer, shook his hand and delivered this message:
“I said, ‘Big fella, you’re human. I knew you were,’ ” McLaren recalled. “And so now we go back and start another streak. He just kind of gave me a hug and that was that.”
Putz had proved untouchable in saving 29 games in a row to start the season. He had 31 straight going back to last season.
McLaren said he wouldn’t second-guess his decision to go with Putz in the eighth inning “because he was well-rested.” Putz, who gave up a two-run home run to the Rangers’ Ramon Vazquez, hadn’t thrown in five days.
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Fellow reliever Chris Reitsma, who closed games with the Atlanta Braves, said the team still has complete faith in Putz.
“The job of any relief pitcher is as much mental as physical,” Reitsma said. “J.J.’s been as close to perfect as he can be. Mentally, it’s just, ‘Forget about it and focus on the positives and focus on getting people out today.’ ”
Learning how to manage through the sudden adversity of a six-game losing streak, and standing by his gut decisions, is an ongoing process for McLaren, a first-time skipper after Mike Hargrove’s sudden resignation earlier this month.
As the team nears the urgency of a playoff race, McLaren said he’s relying on the wisdom he picked up as a longtime bench coach to the hard-nosed likes of Hargrove, Lou Piniella, Joe Morgan and Cito Gaston.
But he’s also promised himself he won’t change his personality or his strengths: talking to the players in the clubhouse and staying positive.
“I would suggest things before; now I have to pull the trigger,” McLaren said. “I’m getting comfortable with the role.”
Lowe doubt about it
McLaren said the Mariners are going to need reliever Mark Lowe and his reconstructed right elbow down the stretch.
Lowe set a club record for most consecutive shutout innings to start a season last year, before an elbow injury shut him down. He had two surgeries, in October and then in February.
“First of all, in a perfect world, we’d like to have a soft landing for him,” McLaren said. “But I don’t know if we’re going to have that luxury.”
Lowe hasn’t pitched since being called off the disabled list. But he warmed up in the bullpen Wednesday night.
“I felt just like I did last year,” Lowe said. “The ball’s coming out of my hand good. I have good command. I’m ready to go.”
The 24-year-old endured four or five hours of rehabilitation daily during the offseason, the worst of which involved excruciating stretching exercises right after the surgery, despite heavy fluid buildup in his arm.
“That was the most pain I’ve ever been through,” Lowe said. “I was just dreading that moment when they put pressure on that arm.”
He watched or TiVo-ed every Mariners game while he was out.
The five spot
For the second straight game, designated hitter Jose Vidro occupied the fifth spot in the batting order. Vidro — 18 for 43 since the All-Star break, good for 10th best in the American League in batting — said the only reason he can pinpoint for his resurgence is the three days off.
“Get your head out of the game for a while, rest your body and your mind,” he said. “I just came back for the second half, fresh, ready to start again.”
McLaren said he felt the previous lineups were getting a little “stale” and said Vidro keeps innings going.
• The last time Seattle played Oakland, Mariners reserve OF Jason Ellison incited a bench-clearing standoff. He went after A’s pitcher Joe Blanton, who had shoved Ichiro near home plate while going after a stray ball. Ellison said he doesn’t expect any hard feelings to carry over. “It was just a situation that came out that day,” he said. “I’m thinking it’s over.”
• The Mariners didn’t take batting practice Thursday, in part because the team’s flight from Texas got in well after 2 a.m.
• Rookie reliever Brandon Morrow turned 23 Thursday.
• Broadcaster Dave Niehaus will be the honorary Grand Marshal in the Seafair Torchlight Parade Saturday night.
Michael Ko: 206-515-5653 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For the record
vs. AL West: 15-16
vs. L.A.: 2-7
vs. Oakland: 7-3
vs. Texas: 6-6
vs. AL East: 18-10
vs. AL Cent.: 12-11
vs. NL: 9-9
vs. LHP: 19-8
vs. RHP: 35-38
Extra innings: 3-1
Thursday’s crowd: 34,250
Season total: 1,547,971
Biggest crowd: 46,340 (June 22)
Smallest crowd: 16,555 (May 2)
Average (50 dates): 30,959
2006 average (50 dates): 28,970