Dickey moves to rotation; Batista to 'pen

Dickey moves to rotation; Batista to 'pen

SEATTLE -- The uncertain status of closer J.J. Putz has prompted the Mariners to change their pitching plans for the three-game Interleague series against the Nationals at Safeco Field.

Right-hander Miguel Batista, who had been scheduled to start Friday night's series opener, is being moved to the bullpen to provide late-inning relief help, while long reliever R.A. Dickey moves into the rotation.

"We're trying to line up our ducks the best way we can to protect ourselves," manager John McLaren said of the switch. "[Batista and Dickey] will switch roles until we get J.J. back."

Putz underwent an MRI exam on Thursday, and was examined by the Mariners' medical director, Dr. Edward Khalfayan. It was diagnosed that Putz hyperextended his right elbow, resulting in triceps tendon inflammation and an irritated ulnar nerve. The exam showed no damage to the ulnar collateral ligament or the flexor bundle in his right elbow. Putz will not throw over the weekend, and will be re-evaluated on Monday.

Putz's injury-plagued season was dealt another blow on Wednesday afternoon in Toronto when he was forced to leave the game during the ninth inning because of right elbow soreness. The first batter he faced was Blue Jays second baseman Joe Inglett and during that at-bat, Putz was seen shaking his right arm in discomfort.

The 31-year-old eventually walked Inglett, but remained in the game to face Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells. After Putz ran the count to 1-2, McLaren noticed his reliever shaking his elbow yet again and came onto the field. The manager decided not to take any chances and summoned right-hander Brandon Morrow from the bullpen.

Morrow retired three straight batters to secure the 2-1 victory.

After McLaren discussed the situation with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and general manager Bill Bavasi during the flight back to Seattle, it was decided to tweak the rotation.

And so, while Putz was being examined Thursday, Dickey was mentally preparing himself for his third big league start since 2005, his second for the Mariners.

He started against the Angels on April 18 in Anaheim and surrendered five earned runs in six innings in a game the Mariners lost, 5-4.

"I felt I could have done better," he said.

He was sent back to Triple-A Tacoma shortly afterwards to get more work on his knuckleball, and returned to Seattle on May 22.

Dickey has been superb ever since, allowing just three earned runs in 20 innings.

The 33-year-old said he doesn't have any "real emotion" about Friday night's start and his primary objective is to keep the game close.

"I hope to do well with the opportunity, don't get me wrong," he said, "but I have never been one to come out and say I belong in the rotation. I believe we have five good starters, but I have started in the big leagues before and enjoyed it. At the same time, I have a grasp of what I can do in the bullpen and I think one thing about getting to be me is that I can do a bunch of things."

But one good start just might lead to another, and another and another.

Dickey knows that the pitcher who taught him how to throw a knuckleball -- Charlie Hough -- didn't get his first big league start until he was 33 years old.

"Hopefully, I will prove trustworthy and 10 years from now, I'll be known as another Charlie Hough," Dickey said. "If not, I'll go back to the bullpen and do the best I can there for a long time. After all, I am like 26 years old in knuckleball years."

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