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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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June 14, 2008 5:21 PM

McLaren on Putz: "He needs to be 100 percent when he comes back."

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Manager John McLaren was asked about the positives and negatives of going with a closer by committee, and his answer eventually wound up talking about the importance of getting closer J.J. Putz healthy.

Putz talked on Friday like someone who wouldn't be spending much longer than 15 days on the disabled list. McLaren on Saturday made it clear that the most pressing issue isn't getting Putz back on the mound, but getting him back on the mound without any caveats about his health.

"We want to make sure that J.J. is 100 percent when he comes back," McLaren said. "If that means having to go out for rehab a couple times, that's fine. I don't want him coming back being 90 percent, 96 percent, 95 percent. He needs to be 100 percent when he comes back. No question in his mind. No apprehension in the way he throws the ball. Just let it rip."

This has been a difficult year for Putz. First, missing 18 games with an injury to the cartilage that attaches to his ribs back in April and then with a torn fingernail that impacted his ability to grip the ball on his split-fingered baseball. The closer that was so consistent last year has struggled this season.

McLaren emphasized Saturday why he feels it's so important for Putz to come back in form to finish the season strongly.

"It has been a rough year for him," McLaren said. "It's worked on him mentally, I don't care how strong you are, when you're so automatic the way he was last year and some of the things that have happened to him this year, I think it's really, really important for us just to get him being J.J. and finish strong."

McLaren was asked if he wished the team had waited longer to bring him off the disabled list back in April. McLaren said there was no indication Putz wasn't ready to come back healthy and said he remembered Putz's fastball being clocked at 96 mph when he returned.

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