Putz cautiously optimistic

J.J. Putz’s first appearance with the White Sox couldn’t have been laid out before hand much better.

The right-hander followed Mark Buehrle to the mound in Friday’s 8-3 loss to the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch and faced the heart of the Dodgers lineup. Putz retired Matt Kemp on a ground ball to third baseman Jayson Nix, struck out Andre Ethier swinging, gave up a Manny Ramirez single and then struck out James Loney to end the inning.

But a cautiously optimistic Putz wasn’t about to celebrate this little bit of success, as he works his way back from elbow surgery for a bone spur that prematurely ended his 2009 season with the New York Mets.

“We got a long way to go still – just got to keep building arm strength,” Putz said. “What I was most happy with was being able to throw strikes with all my pitches. I was able to throw my split over for a strike, backdoor slider and fastball to both sides of the plate, which is the most important part.”

This first significant injury to affect Putz’s stellar career remains in the back of the reliever’s mind. So, it’s easy for Putz to get almost too concerned about normal issues popping up during Spring Training.

“I’m probably overly cautious,” Putz said. “Any time I get a little sore or something, I kind of over-exaggerate in my head what it is. That’s going to probably be the hardest part getting back from having surgery. But so far everything is working in the right direction.

“Here’s the thing – you always get sore and achy in Spring Training because you’re doing stuff you haven’t done for six months. (But) in my mind it’s more magnified because I am coming off surgery. I probably felt like this the past 10 years every time on March 5. So it’s just a matter of getting it out of my head.”

Next up for Putz is one inning Monday against his original team from Seattle.
“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Putz said. “We got another four weeks to go, so we can keep building.”

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