July 20, 2008

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Mariners activated closer J.J. Putz from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday.

Putz had been on the DL since June 12 with a hyperextended pitching elbow. The 31-year-old right-hander, a first-time All-Star last year, has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness this season.

To make room for Putz on the roster, Seattle optioned left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith to Triple-A Tacoma.

Manager Jim Riggleman talked to Putz in the outfield while throwing long toss three hours before Sunday's first pitch. He apparently told him what the manager wanted to hear, because after less than a minute of chatting Riggleman walked off and back into the clubhouse. Putz then pitched for a few minutes on flat ground.

Putz is 2-3 with seven saves in 10 chances and a 5.21 ERA. Last season, he had 40 saves and a 1.38 ERA.

Rowland-Smith, a long reliever who has also made two starts this season for the Mariners, was upset with the move, but Riggleman said Seattle wants to convert Rowland-Smith, who threw 75 pitches in long relief Saturday, into a full-time starter.

"That's a tough move. Ryan's done a good job," Riggleman said an hour before a series finale against Cleveland. "We've got to get some starters down there who can eventually help us."

Riggleman added the 25-year-old native of Australia could be back and starting for Seattle soon.

"I doubt very much at all that it will be all the way to September until we see him again," the manager said.

Recently strong left-hander Jarrod Washburn, scheduled to start Monday against Boston, is believed to be drawing interest from contending teams in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Supposed ace Erik Bedard is out indefinitely while on the DL for the second time this season. And 37-year-old Miguel Batista (4-11 with a 6.98 ERA) has struggled, in and out of the rotation. The right-hander allowed eight runs in two-plus innings Saturday while losing to the Indians, but Riggleman said Batista will take his next rotation turn next weekend at Toronto.

Riggleman reiterated that Putz will initially appear earlier in games in non-save situations and hard-throwing 24-year-old Brandon Morrow will remain the closer for now. Morrow, the fifth overall choice in the 2006 draft, had nine saves in 11 chances while Putz was out.

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