Outfielder Mitch Haniger, first baseman Ryon Healy and pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Nick Vincent are making strides in their recoveries.
PEORIA, Ariz. — While the wait for the anticipated arrival of Ichiro to spring training will seemingly carry into Wednesday, the Mariners still had the business of their daily preparation to take care of on Tuesday. After the initial clubhouse buzz and discussions about the signing of the future Hall of Famer, it was back to work as usual following their first day off of the spring.
Before reports of the Ichiro signing surfaced, much of the news surrounding Seattle’s camp was the plethora of players dealing with injuries — minor and major.
The latest injury — a strained oblique for Ben Gamel, which was part of the impetus of the Ichiro signing — is one more of the more serious maladies in camp. Oblique strains always seem to take about a week longer than anticipated.
“Disappointing,” manager Scott Servais said. “Ben did a really nice job for us last year. Things have happened. He tweaked the oblique and it’s probably a little more serious than we initially anticipated. But we have to be smart with that. We know those things can linger. Four-to-six weeks. I hope it’s closer to the four but it could be six, could be a tick longer, we’re not quite sure yet.”
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Gamel wasn’t expecting the diagnosis.
“Definitely not,” he said. “You work all offseason to come in here and try to make an impact and help the team win games. Having this setback definitely hurts. I guess the MRI showed something differently. We were expecting a couple-day thing and it turned into more. It’s still a little sore right now.”
It’s Gamel’s first oblique injury. They are tricky situations to deal with because that area of the body is affected by all baseball activities. It’s easy to try and come back too soon then experience setbacks. Fellow outfielder Mitch Haniger dealt with one last season and has already been offering advice from his missteps, which included a setback after pushing the oblique too much, too soon.
“I’m going to talk to him as much as possible throughout the whole process,” Haniger said. “But I just basically told him, ‘let it heal, take it slow.’ For me last year, I went from trying not to rush things back to trying to do more. I told him that’s the type of injury where in the final week if it’s not feeling good, you can’t push yourself through it. In some other cases, like if you are coming off a broken hand like that, you can. That’s something where you have to let it fully heal or it will linger.”
While the news on Gamel was a bit of a downer for the Mariners, there was some more positive news surrounding other key players battling injuries, including Haniger.
After being banned from batting practice for about 10 days because of tendinitis in his right hand, Haniger took batting practice on the field on Tuesday.
“I don’t know what the timeline is for when I’ll be in a game, but it’s got to be real soon,” he said. “It’s been feeling good for a long time, but we are honestly just taking it cautiously, and slowly building up everything up so it never comes back.”
First baseman Ryon Healy, who is also dealing with his own hand issue, was cleared to swing a bat for the first time since having surgery on his right hand to remove a bone spur.
“Good day for Healy,” Servais said. “We’ll put a bat in his hands today as well. He’ll hit off the tee, kind of work in a progression like Haniger did. Tee today, some soft toss. Hopefully some BP on the field in the next three or four days. He’s moving along very quickly, which is exciting. He has an outside chance to hopefully get some at-bats under his belt and be ready for Opening Day.”
It would be a major coup if Healy did not start the season the disabled list.
But starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez seems unlikely to avoid that fate. The little right-hander had been shutdown since Feb. 18 because of a minor lat strain. He’s scheduled to restart his throwing program on Friday, according to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.
Asked if Ramirez could be ready to pitch in the first week of the season, Stottlemyre replied: “No chance.”
Ramirez will have to start his throwing progression from the beginning and build back up. Because of schedule quirks which include four off days in the first two weeks of the season, Seattle might not need five starting pitchers. It would allow Ramirez time to get ready, make a few rehab appearances and be available by mid April.
“Looking at the schedule you could get through maybe 10, 12 14 days, depending on which way you look at it, before you might need the fifth guy,” Servais said. “We’ll keep our options open there.”
If the Mariners chose to have a fifth starter, it would come down to lefty Ariel Miranda or right-hander Andrew Moore. Seattle could also carry an extra reliever in that roster spot, which may be more valuable.
Nick Vincent (shoulder discomfort) threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and planned to treat it like a game situation where he was coming out of the bullpen. He would throw 10 pitches as if he were getting hot in the bullpen, wait two minutes, throw eight warmup pitches like in a game and then simulate facing hitters.
“I feel good,” he said. “Shoulder is fine.”
The next step would be facing live hitters in a controlled setting or a Cactus League game.
“I think Nick is going to be fine,” Servais said. “He maybe overdid it early in camp a little. We backed him off for a few days. This will be his second bullpen. He’ll get after it today and if it goes well today, could be live BP or get him right in a game. He’ll throw probably 25 pitches today.”