Putz awaiting MRI results

Closer Putz awaiting MRI results

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Closer J.J. Putz on Friday expressed confidence that results from an MRI exam he had taken earlier in the day would be positive, paving the way for him to be in the Mariners bullpen on Opening Night and beyond.

"I don't have any answers right now, but the result has been sent to Seattle for our doctor to look at," Putz said.

A club official said a radiologist in Arizona has seen the results, but team medical director E. Edward Khalfayan had not, and the club would not comment further. Khalfayan will view the exam results in Seattle on Saturday and Putz's short-term status could be determined at that time.

But as far as the 30-year-old Putz is concerned, there is no reason for concern.

"This was just precautionary," he said. "If this was August, I'd be pitching. The only reason I brought it up at all is because it's Spring Training."

With Putz being such a huge part of the Mariners bullpen, a better-safe-than-sorry approach has been followed from the day he first mentioned that his right elbow was a little sore.

As a result, Putz has been limited to one Cactus League outing -- a one-inning stint against the Cubs on March 6. Putz returned to the mound on Thursday morning for a 25-pitch bullpen session, primarily throwing fastballs, and it appeared to go well.

"Everything was fine," Putz said. "It was a little sore, as expected, but when I started doing my other [postgame work], it started to hurt a little more. It was in the same area of the elbow as before, and that's why they decided to have the MRI."

Putz was given some anti-inflammatory medication and returned to his Arizona home.

"When I woke up this morning, the pain was minimal," he said, "but the MRI had already been planned."

Putz said it would be at least two days before he can throw again, allowing the dye that was inserted into his elbow to dissipate. Opening Day is slightly more than two weeks away, but Putz believes he'll have enough time to get ready for the opener against the Athletics at Safeco Field on April 2.

"I don't need much time," Putz said.

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Manager Mike Hargrove said the report he received suggested that the MRI was "fine," but more information would be known on Saturday.

There has been no evidence that Mariners officials are on the lookout for an emergency closer, just in case Putz misses the start of the season.

"We haven't decided on a Plan B," Hargrove said. "We, obviously, have discussed it and there are two or three different options the club could do."

He would not get into the options, but if the Mariners look in-house, they could find a possible plug-in in right-hander Chris Reitsma, who has 37 big-league saves, including 15 for the Braves in 2005.

"I've done it before, a little here a little there," Reitsma said. "Obviously, we need J.J. to be healthy to make us that much stronger in the bullpen. We hope it's nothing serious and he'll be able to go by Opening Day.

"But if they need me to step in and help out, I am more than happy to do that."

Reitsma pitched the ninth inning in Friday afternoon's 7-3 Cactus League victory over the visiting Royals and has pitched well in consecutive starts.

Asked after the game if there was a "drop-dead" date for Putz to resume pitching and get ready for the regular season, Hargrove said, "Yeah, if he's not ready, I'm probably going to drop dead."

Turning serious, the manager added, "Right now, the concern on a one-to-10 scale of him not being ready is a three. I anticipate that J.J. will be ready. But if he's not and it looks like it might stretch into the season, then we might have to go Plan B or Plan C."

Reitsma is coming off an injury himself. He was placed on the disabled list last July 2 with "ulnar neuritis" in his right arm and had ulnar nerve transposition surgery on July 18, missing the remainder of the season.

"My arm feels good," Reitsma said. "I'm getting there. Each time I go out there I feel better."

But replacing Putz would be a tough act to follow.

Putz replaced Eddie Guardado as the Mariners closer last May 6, and finished with 36 saves in 43 save chances. He led American League relievers with 104 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings, posting a 3-1 record and 34 saves in 57 appearances following his promotion to the closer role.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.