Putnam, 'pen dominating early on

Putnam, 'pen dominating early on

CHICAGO -- If Zach Putnam had his druthers, the White Sox reliever would not get knocked around during Cactus League competition as he did this past February and March in Arizona.

But the veteran right-hander only pays attention to statistics when the games actually count. He has thrown three scoreless frames over the team's first four games, striking out six in 4 2/3 innings.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't put a lot of stock in Spring Training numbers for myself," said Putnam, who had a team-worst 15.43 ERA during Spring Training. "Everybody prepares differently for the season.

"Some guys come in to camp and they are dialed in and whatever. It takes me a little bit to get going and I like to use my outings to get better and not worry so much about the results. I trust the process. I trust when the games matter, when we get to April, when we get to Chicago, I'll be where I need to be. So far, so good."

So far, so good for the entire White Sox bullpen, which entered Sunday's homestand finale with a 0.00 ERA over 13 1/3 innings and with five hits allowed against 14 strikeouts. That stretch marked the first time since 1983 the White Sox bullpen has not allowed an earned run over the first four games of a season.

Spring Training actually meant something different this time around for Putnam. He had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow, ending his '16 campaign on June 20. With the extra days brought on by the World Baseball Classic and coming back from the invasive surgical procedure, Putnam understood it would be a gradual procedure in regard to getting regular-season ready.

"No question. Those first few outings out in Arizona, I was almost more just getting back into the feel of pitching and not even working on stuff, just getting comfortable pitching," Putnam said. "It had been a while.

"Obviously I had some stuff taken out of my arm, so kind of getting used to that. But I'm happy with where I'm at and where the team is."

A split-finger featured by Putnam as his out-pitch never has played well in Arizona, but there has been no problem back in the Midwest. Putnam has no fear throwing any of his pitches, with his repaired elbow feeling great.

"I don't think that anything that I throw is too tough on my arm," Putnam said. "I know the splitter gets a bad rap for being kind of tough on the elbow but the way I throw mine, I don't think it's typical and it doesn't fall into that category."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.