GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The competition for the final spot in the Cubs bullpen was down to three pitchers after the team announced it had optioned Rafael Dolis to Triple-A Iowa on Sunday.
Dolis has been limited by a blister but did pitch one inning on Saturday. The three remaining in contention include Zach Putnam, Cory Wade and Hisanori Takahashi, who is the only left-hander in the mix.
"The thing about [Takahashi] is he doesn't hurt himself," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He throws strikes, he can get back in counts with breaking balls and do a lot of things."
Putnam, 25, has appeared in 10 big league games over two years for the Indians and Rockies. In five Minor League seasons, he has a 3.90 ERA in 171 games. Putnam doesn't walk many batters, posting a 1.33 WHIP in the Minors. The right-hander knows that's a good selling point.
"It's one of those things where it's kind of unanimous across the board that all teams like guys who throw strikes," Putnam said. "If there's one thing you can control as a pitcher, it's throwing the ball in the strike zone, trying to keep the ball down."
He has walked two of the 38 batters he's faced in nine games this spring. Putnam also can do the math and knows how many pitchers are battling for the final spot.
"For me, I try not to get too caught up in that," he said. "As a player, you have no real say in any decisions that are made, and it's entirely up to [the front office] and the staff. You go out every day and try to do your best. It's one of those things where you can get easily distracted when it comes down to this point in camp and you start trying to do the math and the numbers. As best I can, I try to keep that out of my head and go out there and be business-like."
It may be cliche, but Putnam is really taking it one hitter at a time, one day at a time.
"It's comforting as a player to buy into that mindset," Putnam said. "It does take the pressure off you a little bit if you're just trying to go about your business the same way every day."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.