RP Zach Putnam needed a fresh start. The 26-year-old right-hander just finished his 2013 season with the Chicago Cubs where he saw action in all of five games. He ended his cup of coffee with the Northsiders sporting an ERA of 18.90. Uncertainty surrounded the journeyman reliever after he struggled to find success with his third team in three years. He needed to find a team that would allow him to utilize a unique tool in his arsenal.
After cutting his somewhat famous long locks, Putnam entered Chicago White Sox Spring Training as an afterthought. Every year, there are certain pitchers who receive an invite to big league camp, but are expected to only provide pitching depth. Putnam fit this description. After a somewhat stellar spring, Putnam found himself in triple-A Charlotte, hoping to get his fourth chance to show that he belongs in the majors.
Thanks to a horrendous start to the season by the White Sox bullpen, Putnam received the call to join the big league club. In four games so far this season, he has a 2.00 ERA in 9.0 innings of work, which is surprisingly the most number of innings he has ever thrown in a season. The Sox are intrigued with Putnam because of how he throws his go-to pitch, the splitter.
Pitchers who throw a splitter are seen as gambling with their futures because of the strain placed on their arms in order to throw the pitch. Due to the grip and the motion a pitcher must make, the accumulation of stress placed on the arm prematurely ends careers. Unlike the old-school way to throw the devastating pitch, Putnam arm motion is unique. He throws his splitter like most pitchers throw a changeup. Instead of putting strain on his fingers, the movement is controlled by the palm of the hand.
Through four games this season, Putnam has shown that he could be a quality back-of-the-bullpen asset. With the use of the splitter, Putnam can keep hitters off-balance in ways that Matt Lindstrom has failed to. The bullpen has been improving in recent weeks and that is partially because of Putnam.
As the Michigan native continues to build on his early success this season, the Sox will keep an eye on their potential diamond in the rough. With a pitch that looks like it has a life of its own, there is no telling what Putnam can do in his fresh environment.