PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners' Cactus League game against the Giants on Tuesday at Peoria Stadium started right on time, but without manager Mike Hargrove and pitching coach Rafael Chaves. They were busy watching the first inning of a Minor League game between the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers and Portland Beavers on one of the practice fields at the Peoria Sports Complex. That's where right-handed closer J.J. Putz made his first Spring Training appearance since March 5, the day his right elbow started giving him problems, which led to an eventual MRI that disclosed a mild flexor pronator strain.
All is well again, except for a little rust. Putz pitched one inning, threw 15 pitches and surrendered one hit and one earned run. "He looked fine to me -- free and easy," Hargrove said. "His command was good, for as long as he was off. Most important, he felt good." Putz, who replaced veteran left-hander Eddie Guardado as the closer last May and registered 36 saves, should be ready to open the season on Monday. He is set for one more appearance this spring, a one-inning outing against the Chicago Cubs on Friday night is Las Vegas. "Everything felt good," Putz said after Tuesday's outing. "The biggest thing was not feeling any discomfort out there. I think I'll be ready [for the regular season]. I don't see it being a problem." Hargrove said three innings of Spring Training for one of the most important jobs on the pitching staff heading into a regular season wasn't ideal.
"It'll have to be enough," Hargrove said. This outing was very important. My stomach finally turned right-side up."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.