A mid 80’s, dives-off-the-table splitter has been Zach Putnam’s calling card for three seasons with the White Sox. A reliable option out of the bullpen since 2014, Putnam’s 2017 season (one in which he was on pace to throw over 60 innings for the first time in his career) ended early with a surgery to remove bone spurs in his pitching elbow. As June rolled into August, the loss of depth and reliability showed as the White Sox struggled to find consistency out of the bullpen.
Putnam, whose usage had to be limited even through the early part of the 2016 season to manage the pain, says he’s throwing free and clear. “You always have to be willing to adjust expectations when you’re healing,” Putnam said. “Stuff can happen and sometimes it’s out of your control. The point I’m at though–I’ve been on the mound probably twelve times–five or six times out here. [I’m] feeling really good. At this point I don’t expect any setbacks. I’m taking the best care of my body I possibly can.”
Putnam will be part of a rarity in baseball when the season begins. He’ll be a member of a largely veteran bullpen on a team that’s chosen a rebuilding path. “We have a veteran group of guys out there and that’s really nice,” Putnam said. “I think our pitching staff as a whole has a nice veteran presence. With Shields at the top, being our most veteran guy, then you have guys like [David Robertson] and [Nate Jones].”
Veteran though the pitching staff may be, trades, injuries and roster adjustments will happen. Putnam knows that and is looking forward to seeing some of the youth the White Sox have cultivated hit the Big Leagues. “There’s a number of guys that have been impressive, already, to me,” Putnam said. “I was playing catch next to [Michael Kopech] and [Zach Burdi] the other day. [They] were making me wish I was 21 and could throw 100 mph, I’ll tell you that. These guys are out here almost trying to hurt each other playing catch. Just firing rockets,” Putnam joked. “I’m excited to see how that plays for both of them on the mound.”
It won’t be too long before Putnam and the youth movement hit the mound firing rockets, and sinkers, in Cactus League play.