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09/25/07 10:00 AM ET

Putz a finalist for Delivery Man of Year

Mariners closer has been just about automatic this year

SEATTLE -- The impact right-handed closer J.J. Putz has had on the Mariners' success this season can best be measured by the team's record when leading after eight innings -- 72-0 going into the final seven games of the regular season.

"For me, we play eight-inning games," manager John McLaren said.

Handing the ball to the 30-year-old Putz with a lead in the final inning is about as close as you can get to a sure thing. The first-time All-Star converted his first 29 save opportunities, had had only two blown saves in 41 save chances going into the final week of the season, and probably would have challenged the franchise's all-time single-season save record of 47 if not for the Mariners' late-season slump.

"I think if you asked the other teams about him, they would say he's No. 1 or 2 in the league," McLaren said of Putz, selected as one of the 10 finalists for the DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award. "He has been consistently great all season."

It has been a breakthrough season for the former Minor League starting pitcher, who replaced mentor and close friend Eddie Guardado in the closer role in May 2006 and has proven to be one of the most dependable game-enders in franchise history.

And he now is recognized as one of the best in the business.

Other finalists are: Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Joe Nathan (Twins), Jason Isringhausen (Cardinals), Francisco Cordero (Brewers), Jose Valverde (Diamondbacks), Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Takashi Saito (Dodgers), Bobby Jenks (White Sox) and Trevor Hoffman (Padres).

The "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award" winner is selected by a special Major League Baseball "yellow-ribbon" panel that includes Mike Bauman, national columnist for MLB.com; Rich "Goose" Gossage, the nine-time All-Star pitcher; Darryl Hamilton, former Major League outfielder and a member of the MLB On-Field Operations staff; Jerome Holtzman, the official MLB Historian and a member of the writer's wing of the Hall of Fame; and Bob Watson, vice president, On-Field Operations, Major League Baseball.

At the conclusion of the season, Major League Baseball fans have the opportunity to determine which relief pitcher had the best overall season and deserves the third-annual "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award." A list of finalists was selected based on statistical qualifiers and fans will be able to vote for the winner online at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball. The "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award" will be presented during the Major League Baseball postseason.

Besides the 29 consecutive converted saves to start the season, and being named to his first All-Star team, Putz maintained a sub-1.00 ERA from June 27 through July 31 and through Sunday had allowed less than one batter to reach base in each of his 68 1/3 innings of work.

He surrendered just 35 hits and walked 12 batters in 64 appearances -- a 0.69 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).

Compare that to American League saves leader Joe Borowski of the Indians. He has 43 saves and a 1.41 WHIP and National League saves leader Valverde, who has 46 saves and a 1.11 WHIP.

"One thing J.J. really does well is make adjustments in a hurry," McLaren said. "You will see him come into a game and be a little high with his pitches at first. But he has the ability to make adjustments, either against the hitter he's fallen behind on, or the next one."

As result, Putz has a boatload of three-up, three-down saves.

Of his first 38 saves this season, 15 came in games he was asked to protect a one-run lead.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.