J.J. Putz knew about the bone spur inside his right elbow before he was traded to New York, as did both the Mariners and the Mets. But in the aftermath of last year's injury-riddled season, Putz and his former team have different versions of how his time in Flushing eventually broke down.
"When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets," Putz said. "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, and 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."
Putz talked with Newsday last August about the pressures to stay on the field, and also how the spur ultimately became a problem but not until after he returned from pitching in the World Baseball Classic. Putz received a cortisone shot in the elbow shortly before he was shut down for surgery.
"While that cortisone was in there, I was great," Putz told Newsday last August. "But cortisone is nothing but a Band-Aid anyway. It masks the problem. That's all it really is. With me there was really nothing structurally wrong, so I don't know if anything really got worse."
Putz also told Comcast-Chicago that it was difficult trying to explain his downward slide and not use the injured elbow as an excuse. Exactly why he kept the injury a secret is unclear in his comments to the Chicago TV network, whether it was pressure from the front office or the New York media looking for reasons for his decline.
"I knew that I wasn't right," Putz told Comcast. "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 [the Mets] don't want you telling them [reporters] that you're banged up."
The Mets were pushed into spin-control mode again this week in the wake of the Putz interview in Chicago, and they denied any negligence in the handling of his injury from the day of the trade until the end of his contract.
"In our review of the players medical records in the acquisition of J.J. Putz, we were aware that he had a bone spur before the trade," the Mets said in a statement. "He had the same condition in 2008 and was able to pitch with it.
"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."