D-backs reliever has been on DL since May 7 with elbow strain
Barry M. Bloom
PHOENIX -- D-backs reliever J.J. Putz threw a 20-pitch bullpen session on Saturday at Chase Field and proclaimed himself pain free. He has been on the disabled list with a strained right elbow since May 7.
"I'm getting there," Putz said after the session, which occurred hours before the D-backs played the Giants in the second matchup of the three-game series. "I had no pain today so it was good.
"I've just been working on arm strength and had a couple of flat grounds. Today was the big day throwing off the mound."
The plan is to have Putz throw another bullpen on Tuesday and a simulated game on Friday. If all continues to go well, Putz will then probably head to the Minors for a couple of rehab assignments, manager Kirk Gibson said. That timeline leaves Putz's Major League reactivation about 10 days to two weeks away.
"All and all I think he felt good. He threw the ball fine," Gibson said. "I'm sure he'll get better every time he throws. Maybe after the live BP on Friday we'll get him into a game somehow."
Putz, who has been the team's closer since signing as free agent prior to the 2011 season, never seemed to have his good stuff this year. He's 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 14 appearances and has blown four saves in nine opportunities. On May 7 at Dodger Stadium, he was brought in as usual in the ninth inning and came out immediately after walking Nick Punto.
Putz hasn't pitched since and has been supplanted in the closer's role by Heath Bell, who recorded his 11th save in 13 opportunities in the D-backs' 3-1 victory over the Giants on Friday night. Gibson said he isn't certain yet how he will phase Putz back in when he returns.
Given that D-backs starter Daniel Hudson recently re-injured his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and is facing his second Tommy John surgery since July 9, Putz said he feels fortunate.
"I feel like I got lucky that it was just a strain," he said. "Considering what poor Daniel has to go through again, that's unbelievable. I'm very relieved, and today was another big step in the right direction. It's more relief rather than frustration, being able to let it loose and not have any restrictions."