NEW YORK — The process for Hunter Strickland to get back to closing games for the Mariners will be long, but at least it can start now.
Strickland joined the Mariners in New York for the series with Yankees, but his real purpose for being in the city was to have another checkup with Dr. Anthony Romeo, a shoulder and elbow specialist.
He received good news from the visit, getting clearance to start throwing again after a lat strain forced him to the disabled list.
“I actually start throwing Monday,” he said. “I’m going to go back (to Seattle on Thursday). When the team gets back, I will start throwing.”
Strickland suffered the injury on March 29, while trying to close out a game against the Red Sox. He was placed on the 10-day injured list and then was later transferred to the 60-day injured list when it became clear he was going to be out for a significant amount of time.
Strickland was happy to be on the road with the team, getting to be around teammates instead of back in Seattle rehabbing the injury by himself.
“It’s definitely something that I’ve missed,” he said. “I’m ready to get back.”
The Mariners could definitely use him back. Their late-innings production from the bullpen and the closer by committee have been borderline disastrous. Seattle has blown seven saves since he’s been out, including two on this road trip. Strickland’s absence has forced manager Scott Servais to piece together late innings without having a closer to turn to in the ninth.
Strickland has had to watch the struggles. It’s a helpless feeling knowing that you could make a difference if you were healthy enough to be out there.
“It’s never fun,” he said. “There’s never a good time to get injured, but you have to find the positives from it and just move forward. Now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Strickland knew he was getting close to being cleared to throw. He had felt significantly better in recent weeks.
“I’ve been able to do more things,” he said. “It’s been getting better and getting stronger. All in all, another good report. We did another MRI to make sure the healing is going correctly. It’s definitely progressing in the right direction.”
But he has to proceed in that direction at a pace recommended by the medical staff instead of pushing beyond.
“I’ve got to be smart with it,” he said. “Yeah, I want to be back sooner than later. But the last thing we need is to reinjure it and miss the entire season. It’s something we have to cautious about and just go about it right away.”
Strickland is eligible to return from the IL on June 5. But there is no guarantee he’ll be back that day. He will have to restart an entire throwing program to build up arm strength. It could be a few weeks before he even throws a bullpen session.
Shortstop Tim Beckham was out of the starting lineup on Wednesday night. It had nothing to do with the baserunning gaffes he’s had in the past few games. It was a scheduled day off to get utility player Dylan Moore a game at shortstop. Servais said that Beckham texted him after Tuesday’s game lobbying to play on Wednesday, but Servais stuck with his plan coming into the series.
Right-hander Gerson Bautista (right pectoral strain) has reported to Class A Modesto to begin his rehab assignment. Bautista suffered the injury during spring training on March 20 and has remained in Peoria, Arizona, since then rehabbing with the staff at extended spring training.
Mallex Smith continues to play well since being demoted to Class AAA Tacoma. Smith went 3 for 5 on Tuesday night. In four games with the Rainiers, he’s batting .474 (9 for 19) with two doubles, an RBI, a walk and four stolen bases. In an interview with MLB Network Radio (below) and his pregame media scrum, Servais said that Smith could return soon when his 10-day minimum is up.