|Rodriguez returns to anchor Angels' pen, Putz still for Mariners|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 12 April 2008 16:17|
Then came relief.
All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez was available Saturday night for the first time since he sprained his right ankle on Monday. Rodriguez tested the ankle on flat ground Friday night before the series opener at Seattle, then told manager Mike Scioscia he was ready to return.
That means everyone else can go back to their usual jobs - Scot Shields and Justin Speier as the primary right-handed setup men and Darren Oliver as the prime left-hander before the ninth.
Los Angeles' bullpen ERA was 7.27 ERA entering Saturday, after Darren O'Day and Oliver gave up three runs behind starter Jered Weaver in a loss Friday night.
``Our bullpen, right now, we're trying to get settled down,'' Scioscia said after that mishap.
Seattle's bullpen hasn't been much better. The Mariners were expected to challenge the Angels' reign in the AL West largely because they could depend on their own All-Star closer, J.J. Putz. But they entered the weekend with a bullpen ERA that was better only than the Angels', largely because Putz has been out since April 1 with a ribcage injury.
Putz threw the fourth consecutive day without pain Saturday, for 20 minutes on flat ground.
``We're right where we want to be,'' Putz said. ``I feel great.''
He's eligible to come off the disabled list April 17, but that seems unlikely. He and Mariners manager John McLaren both still don't know when the right-hander might throw off a mound and in simulated games.
The team hasn't decided yet whether Putz will go on a minor-league rehab assignment.
``We're making real good progress. He's right on schedule,'' McLaren said.
Seattle could be getting other bullpen help, too. McLaren said Brandon Morrow, who was supposed to be Putz's primary setup man, is ``getting closer'' to rejoining the team after developing a sore shoulder last month. The 23-year-old right-hander has thrown well while pitching on consecutive days and in two-inning stints.
``He's making good progress,'' McLaren said.
He said the same thing about veteran left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who was left behind in Arizona after spring training so he could continue to rehab his pitching elbow. Rhodes didn't make it out of the first inning in a start Friday for West Tennessee, giving up three runs - one earned - with a walk and a strikeout in 22 pitches.
``He had good velocity,'' McLaren said. ``He was around the strike zone.''
The Mariners expect Rhodes, a non-roster invitee to camp, to pitch for them this season.
For now, they - like the Angels - are just trying to get by late in games.