Friday, Jan. 22, 2010
Im sitting in a hotel room at the Palmer House, the site of Sox Fest 2010. 139 years ago, this was the site of the very first Palmer House (known as The Palmer), which only 13 days after being built, was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Into the room walks J.J. Putz. He might not know much about Chicago history, or the fire that once erupted here, but if given the choice, the new White Sox reliever would torch his 2009 season straight to the ground.
It was a mess from the beginning, said Putz in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. He was traded from the Mariners to the Mets in a monster three-team, 11-player deal in December 2008. The former closer was supposed to be the 8th inning set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez, a 1-2 punch that on paper was also supposed to make the Mets unbeatable in the late-innings.
But soon after he arrived in New York, Putz knew that something was wrong.
When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets, said Putz. I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training, and the spring training physical is kind of a formality. It was bugging me all through April, and in May I got an injection. It just got to the point where I couldnt pitch. I couldnt throw strikes, my velocity was way down.
And it was showing on the mound. The once super human reliever had suddenly become a broken down mess. After 29 games, he was 1-and-4 with a 5.22 ERA. He had 19 walks in 19 innings. And this was New York. The boos cascading from Citi Field could be heard across the river in Jersey.
Being hurt is never fun, especially when you go to a team like New York, where the expectation level is so high, and youre not able to do what you know you can do. (The Mets) gave up a lot to get me, so it was disappointing and frustrating.
Especially when the Mets told Putz not to talk about being hurt with the media.
I knew that I wasnt right. I wasnt healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know theres something wrong and they dont want you telling them that youre banged up.
By June, Putz was concerned that the pain in his elbow would start affecting his shoulder, so he had surgery to remove the bone spur, and was supposed to miss 10-to-12 weeks. However, when he tried to come back in August, he felt some tightness in his right forearm.
Thats when (the Mets) told me that I blew my elbow out. That was kind of a shock because I never felt any pain in it.
It didnt matter. The Mets shut him down. Putzs season was over. And he learned a very important lesson.
That its my career, and when you know something doesnt feel right, and they want to take these little sidesteps to do something, and just wait and wait and wait, you got to get it taken care of instead of trying to prolong the inevitable.
In November, the Mets chose to wipe the slate clean, declining J.J.s 9.1 million option for 2010.
Putz says that the first team to call was the White Sox.
They wanted to do a physical right away, said Putz. They took an MRI. The elbow looked clean.
Which was exactly what Sox GM Kenny Williams wanted to see.
When our doctors finally got their hands on him, he passed his physical with flying colors, said Williams after the signing. We couldn't be happier with what was communicated to us by our doctors.
The Sox quickly signed Putz to a one-year, 3 million contract.
One person who couldnt be happier was Matt Thornton. The fellow reliever and Michigan native placed a call to Putz to gauge his interest, but Putz says that Matt didnt put on the kind of hard sell that has been reported. The two are close friends and huge fans of the Wolverines. But Putz is quick to point out that only one of them has maze and blue in his blood.
I went there. He went to some Grand Valley State University Technical Ranch Dressing School or something like that. Hes a poser.
Friday at Sox Fest Putz said that his arm feels great, and he will be throwing off a mound in two weeks.
But when he walks to the mound at U.S. Cellular Field when the season begins, hes going to need a new song announcing his arrival. Putz has always used Thunderstruck by ACDC, but that's been the White Sox team song since their 2005 World series title.
So, clearly Putz needs a new song and hes asking you for suggestions. That's right...you!
Email me your ideas (SoxDrawer@comcastsportsnet.com) and Ill be sure to pass them along to J.J. If he chooses your song, you'll get White Sox tickets for this season!
And no offense to Gordon Beckham, but no more songs by the Outfield.