SAN FRANCISCO -- As soon as J.J. Putz's first mid-90s fastball sizzled across the plate, the Mets knew they had no more reason to fret. Putz was firing absolute missiles -- just as he had in the opening days of camp, catching his teammates' attention with a popping sound that resonated across their Spring Training complex.
The ensuing days of low-90s heat -- and of Putz blaming that velocity drop on a lack of adrenaline, and of manager Jerry Manuel blaming it on the World Baseball Classic -- had vanished. Mr. Mid-90s had returned.
"Today, it felt like my arm was nice and free and easy and loose," Putz said after saving the team's 9-6 win over the Giants. "It was almost like effortless to get through it."
On the mound because regular closer Francisco Rodriguez had pitched four days in a row, Putz was also making his first appearance since being diagnosed with inflammation in his right elbow. He received a shot to calm his elbow earlier this week, but hadn't tested the joint until Saturday.
As soon as he stepped on the bullpen mound, his worries vanished.
"It felt good from the first pitch," Putz said.
Perhaps it was a risk for Putz's first appearance to come in a save situation -- but then again, perhaps it was the opposite. Putz openly admitted earlier this week that he felt more comfortable pitching in the ninth inning than the eighth, even if he's come to embrace his new role.
The thought of saving this one game, his first of the season, was a welcome bonus.
"It's so different when you're warming up coming in for a save," he said. "It's just kind of a different feeling when you're warming up with the butterflies and the tingles. It just seems to kind of get you a little bit more locked in."
And he was indeed locked in, retiring the Giants in order and striking out Fred Lewis on a 96 mph fastball to end the game.
Afterward, he felt no pain.
"It just feels different," Putz said. "Hopefully it's something we can build on."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.