Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz has a sprained right ulnar collateral ligament and will be shut down for two weeks but will not require surgery on his elbow.
“I think we dodged a bullet,” Putz said Thursday. “It’s not great, but it could have been a lot worse.”
Putz left in the ninth inning of a game against the Dodgers on Tuesday after facing one batter. He felt pain on his second pitch but threw a few more after, walking the batter. He was then removed from the game and flew back to Phoenix for an MRI, which revealed the sprain.
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Wednesday that Heath Bell, the former Padres and Marlins closer, will take over ninth-inning duties while Putz is out. How long that will be is not clear. The plan is to completely shut Putz down from baseball activities for two weeks and reassess then. In the meantime, the 36-year-old will work to rehab the elbow.
“He’ll just be doing training room stuff, trying to get it calmed down,” Gibson said. “He’s certainly not going to be picking up a ball or anything like that.”
This is not Putz’s first elbow injury in his throwing arm. He dealt with minor injuries in 2007 and 2008, and in 2009 he needed surgery to remove bone spurs in the elbow. That surgery cost him most of his season with the Mets. In 2011, right elbow inflammation sidelined Putz for 27 days but did not require surgery.
Gibson said the new elbow injury is similar to the 2011 one, which came amid a season in which Putz tallied a career-high 45 saves to help the D-backs win the NL West.
“They compared the MRIs from 2011 with today’s,” Gibson said. “There is some change there, but not enough to change where they look at doing surgery.
“We’re optimistic he’ll be able to come back (with rehab).”
In 14 appearances this year, Putz has a 4.26 ERA with five saves in nine opportunities. With four blown saves, Putz is just one short of his 2012 total.
Putz is the just latest D-back to be forced out of the lineup with an injury. The team is currently without its starting second baseman (Aaron Hill, broken left hand) and center fielder (Adam Eaton, strained left elbow) as well as utility infielder Willie Bloomquist (right oblique strain). Left fielder Jason Kubel, shortstop Didi Gregorius and right fielder Cody Ross also have spent time on the disabled list already this season.