During Wednesday's game with the Braves, SNY announcer Kevin Burkhardt recounted a conversation he had with Mets reliever J.J. Putz. Putz, who was the closer in Seattle the last couple of seasons, told Burkhardt that he was having trouble summoning his best fastball in an eighth innning role.
That would make his four earned runs in his last six innings the result of a mental block brought on by pouting. That doesn't say much for Putz, perhaps, but at least it is something that can be fixed rather easily. The problem is that Putz's unwillingness to pitch the eighth inning may only be part of the story.
Amazin' Avenue crunched some numbers on Putz and found troubling results. His velocity and swinging strike percentage are down, continuing trends that didn't just develop upon his arrival in Queens. His strikeouts per nine innings have plummeted as a result, which leaves Putz more or less naked on the mound.
It would seem more likely, then, that Putz is experiencing a physical issue that is impacting his ability to pitch successfully. Not that it really matters at this point in time. Francisco Rodriguez has done everything the Mets signed him to do, but that's useless unless the team is handing him leads to protect. Putz is making that more difficult and, whether the problem is mental or physical, they can't keep putting him in a position to lose leads much longer.
UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, the Mets announced Putz is suffering from inflammation in the back of his right elbow. That's caused a bone spur, a condition that Putz has had before. He took an anti-inflammatory shot and will sit out a couple of games to see if that helps alleviate the problem.