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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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August 3, 2008 5:55 PM

Putz on the comeback trail

Posted by Larry Stone

The best part of the Mariners' 8-4 win -- besides the occasional flyovers by the Blue Angels -- was probably an impressive outing by J.J. Putz, who needed just 11 pitches to get four outs. As I mentioned before the game, the Mariners are just waiting for Putz to assert himself and show he's ready to close again before beginning the process of making Brandon Morrow a starter.

Today was a huge step in that direction. Putz really sounded pumped after the game. He was particularly happy with a nasty split he threw to Nick Markakis that resulted in a ground out. For Putz to get back to where he needs to be, he needs to regain command of his split. As he pointed out, other teams know he hasn't had it, and they're able to sit on his fastball and slider. And with more than a month off, those pitches aren't at full strength yet, either. With a split back in the arsenal, Putz should start to progress toward last year's success at a faster rate. I noticed he popped a few fastballs at 97 mph, another good sign.

"To be able go out and execute the split today was a very, very big step,'' Putz said.

He admitted he's anxious to close again but said he completely understands why Riggleman is going with Morrow.

"I think today was a really big step in making that decision (to put him back at closer) easier for them,'' he said.

And how about Yuniesky Betancourt's four-pitch walk in the seventh? It was his seventh base on balls in 281 plate appearances this year. It was a big one, too, loading the bases with none out in a 4-4 game. Ichiro got the tie-breaking run across on a fielder's choice, and Raul Ibanez broke it open with a two-run single.

Combined with the Angels' loss to the Yankees, the Mariners crept to within 27 games of first place.

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