Mets issue statement on Putz's remarks
Righty reliever says club told him not to tell media of injury
NEW YORK -- The bad medicine that was the Mets' 2009 season has carried over into the New Year again. Now that the brouhaha involving Carlos Beltran and his knee surgery has faded, the club is handling inquiries about remarks made by J.J. Putz, the relief pitcher who appeared in 29 games with the Mets last season before he underwent surgery on his right elbow.
During an appearance in Chicago for SoxFest in January -- Putz signed with the White Sox in December -- he said he wasn't examined by the Mets' medical staff after he was acquired in trade from the Mariners until after he had reported to Spring Training and before he pitched in the World Baseball Classic.
Putz said Mariners doctors had found a bone spur in his elbow in 2008 and that when the Mets learned of the condition, they urged him not to tell the media about it.
The Mets issued a statement Monday in which they said they were "aware that he had a bone spur before the trade. He had the same condition in 2008 and was able to pitch with it," the statement said. "J.J. underwent an exam during Spring Training and an additional exam and MRI before he was cleared to play in last year's World Baseball Classic. Unfortunately the spur did flare up again in May, and he missed the rest of the season. We are happy to hear he is feeling well, and wish him success with the White Sox."
The Mets said a physical examination is standard only when a player signs as a free agent or re-signs with the club, not when he is acquired in a trade. The statement doesn't address the club allowing Putz to pitch in the WBC when it was aware of the spur. The Mets said they had not urged him to lie about his condition and that they had acknowledged his elbow problem when they announced the trade at the Winter Meetings, Dec. 11.
"When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets," Putz said in Chicago. "I had the bone spur. ... It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to Spring Training [in 2009]. 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 couldn't pitch. I couldn't throw strikes, my velocity was way down."
The Mets had acquired Putz in a 12-player, three-club exchange with the Indians and Mariners. He was to have served as he primary setup reliever for Francisco Rodriguez. He was not used exclusively in that role. In the days preceding the MRI that detected the need for surgery, the club did not acknowledge an awareness of the spur.
Putz pitched not too effectively June 1 and was told he would have the following day off because he had worked in the bullpen before the game trying to refine his release point. Two days later, manager Jerry Manuel said Putz had lost his eighth-inning role to Bobby Parnell. Manuel said he hoped the change would be temporary, until Putz "rediscovers himself."
"Hopefully this is a small, small window for him to get right," Manuel said. "This is not long-term."
No mention of elbow pain was made. The following day, the Mets said Putz experienced sharp pain in the elbow and said it wasn't an unprecedented problem. He was to return to New York for an examination. He underwent surgery five days later.
"Being hurt is never fun," Putz said, "especially when you go to a team like New York, where the expectation level is so high, and you're 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. ... I knew that I wasn't right. I wasn't healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know there's something wrong and they don't want you telling them that you're banged up.
"It was a mess from the beginning. The entire team was hurt. So, it was kind of like a snowball that kept going, going, going."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.