Three weeks of inactivity and pent up angst boiled over in a wave of sustained excellence for Seattle's J.J. Putz.
The imposing 6-foot-5, 250-pound closer, sporting an appropriately flame-colored goatee, sat idly for the first three weeks of the regular season before being given his first save opportunity.
Since then, he's rattled off 23 consecutive saves for the Mariners, including an impeccable June in which Putz went 11-for-11 in save opportunities while boasting a 0.59 ERA in 13 games. He was rewarded Monday with American League Pitcher of the Month honors.
"J.J. has been nails for us all year," Mariners designated hitter Ben Broussard said. "He can come in and give us two innings, one inning or pitch six days in a row."
Of the 11 saves in June -- he fanned 19 batters through 15 1/3 innings of work over that span -- the right-hander recorded seven of them consecutively in a stretch from June 2-12 against Texas, Baltimore, San Diego Cleveland and the Chicago Cubs, the latter of which was during a particularly draining bout with the flu.
"I was out there pitching on fumes," he said of his performance against the Cubs. "I had the flu [the previous night] and had no energy today. But you just have to suck it up and get it done any way you can."
In 39 innings this season, Putz is 1-0, having retired 43 batters by way of strikeout. He has a 0.92 ERA.
"He has done a great job in a tough job," Mariners pitching coach Rafael Chaves said. "The team can play great baseball for 2 1/2 hours and the last three outs are on his shoulders."
A month of firsts for Putz, June marked his first career Pitcher of the Month award and his first career selection to an All-Star Game -- he will be joined by Mariners center fielder and perennial All-Star Ichiro Suzuki on July 10 in San Francisco.
"I wouldn't be in this position without the guys pitching in front of me doing their job all year long," Putz said. "There have been days I've been out there when I wasn't perfect and they turned double plays."
Larry Santana is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.