Mariners' ace takes important step toward returning to Seattle rotation.

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Felix Hernandez on Sunday took an important step toward returning to the Mariners’ rotation.

Hernandez, on the disabled list since April 26 with right shoulder bursitis, retired the first 14 batters he faced in his second rehab start for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers on Sunday afternoon.

His final line: five innings, one hit, one run, one walk and five strikeouts in the Rainiers’ 5-3 victory over the Las Vegas 51s.

That’s a significant improvement from Hernandez’s first rehab start for Tacoma last week, when he allowed five runs (including a grand slam) in just two innings of work.

Hernandez is scheduled to make a third rehab start before returning to the Mariners’ rotation.

“It’s more about the long haul here, like we talked with Felix about earlier,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after a 4-0 loss to the Blue Jays in Seattle. “We want him to be built up. We’ve found guys (in the rotation) that can go out and give us very competitive five innings. We’re looking for somebody to get a little bit (more) into the sixth, seven inning. So let’s build him up, put him in the right spot so we can get him going and have him for the remainder of the season.”