Putnam proving himself out of bullpen
Despite slow start to season, reliever becoming one of White Sox best for pressure situations
CHICAGO -- Zach Putnam knows that as a reliever in the Majors, at some point the game "shoves failure in your face." And Putnam got some "right out of the gate."
But he made a few tweaks to his mechanics, watched film of where he went wrong and recovered to become one of the White Sox most trusted relievers in pressure situations, which was seen again in Sunday's 3-2 win over the Rangers.
"I don't think there's been anything that I've done personally to try to change, but just kind of stay the course and trust the process," Putnam said. "Just stay the course, and that's when good things have happened recently."
Since May 7, Putnam has allowed two earned runs and six hits while striking out 24 batters. That streak came after he started his first two outings of the season by allowing four earned runs and five hits. He held an 18.00 ERA and a loss before a week even passed.
Now, he has been one of the Majors' best out of the bullpen at striking out batters while limiting free bases, as he's walked just two batters in June.
The right-hander ranks fourth among all relievers in the Majors with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 13.90, his highest in his four-year career. In the seventh inning of Saturday's game against the Rangers, he struck out all three batters he faced as the White Sox snapped an eight-game losing streak.
Sunday in the 10th inning, Putnam stayed calm in the heart of the Rangers' order, even after he fell behind. He held Texas scoreless with runners on the corners and finished with a strikeout, inducing a double play to end the inning.
"He'll sit there and he'll throw out his fastball and be able to get a guy chasing after it, but you know his bread and butter is going to be his offspeed stuff," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "So he has to be able to throw it for strikes and get guys to chase it. When he's doing that, he's tough to pick up.
"I think once you get healthy and you get that repetition going, you have a better chance to succeed and get your way back on track. And he did that. Everybody goes through their bumps during the season, and he's made his way back."
And he's been able to set up his fellow relievers, as he did Saturday, to build off his momentum. He's picked up four holds in his past eight appearances, becoming a more important part of a Chicago team where runs are at a premium.
Putnam has returned to similar form he had last year, when he held a 1.98 ERA with 46 strikeouts and six saves. Since his college days at the University of Michigan, Putnam has consistently been one of the best at striking out batters. So, it wasn't surprising to see him repeat that same success, just that it took him an extra week to get going.
"That's so much of this game for guys, is just having faith in their stuff," Putnam said. "There's a reason why we're all here, we're all talented. Sometimes you're going to have some bad results, nothing that you're going to need to go and start from the bottom and re-invent yourself."