Mariners' starter James Paxton took another step toward returning to the rotation with a positive bullpen session on Thursday.
The light at the end of the tunnel for the Mariners and their various injuries remains long.
“We’re not going to Mercer Island,’’ joked manager Scott Servais. “(It’s the) Holland Tunnel (in New York) right now.’’
Still, consider it progress that on Thursday the Mariners did not have to make a roster move for the first time on a gameday since May 4 (in fact, Seattle had made at least two moves per day each of the past five days).
And consider it further progress that the personnel news Servais did have to deliver to the media before Thursday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox all sounded positive.
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Maybe most notable is that left-hander James Paxton, on the disabled list since May 5 with a left forearm strain, threw 25 pitches in a bullpen session and afterward pronounced that all had gone well.
“I’ll be back fairly quickly,’’ Paxton said.
There are likely two more steps for Paxton — another bullpen session Sunday and then a rehab start, probably with the Class AA Arkansas Travelers, of 65-70 pitches — before returning to Seattle.
Paxton said he threw only fastballs on Thursday but will mix in breaking balls Sunday. As long as everything goes well with that he’ll head to the rehab start.
“One rehab and then hopefully get him back in the rotation,’’ Servais said.
Here were other injury updates provided by Servais.
- Felix Hernandez was scheduled to play catch on Thursday after initially it was hoped he could do that Wednesday (Hernandez was on the field pre-game throwing in the outfield). Hernandez has been on the DL since April 26 with right shoulder inflammation.
- Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, on the DL since May 10 with inflammation in his shoulder, was also scheduled to play catch on Thursday.
- Left-hander Drew Smyly, out since March 30 with a left arm flexor strain, played catch on Wednesday and “felt pretty good,’’ Servais said. The plan for now is for Smyly to throw every other day and then progress from there. “Just build some arm strength,’’ Servais said. “Get him out there playing some long toss then get him to a bullpen and go from there.’’ He is eligible to come off the DL May 29.
- Second baseman Robinson Cano, on the DL retro to May 13 with a right quad strain, was scheduled to hit in the cage and off a tee Thursday. “He’s feeling better, progressing along,’’ Servais said.
- Outfielder Mitch Haniger, on the DL since April 26 with a straight right oblique, took batting practice on Wednesday and was schedule to throw to the bases and run around a little more on Thursday.
- Reliever Shae Simmons, on the DL since March 30 with a right elbow strain, was scheduled to throw a bullpen Thursday in Arizona and is “moving closer to going out on a rehab assignment.
All of the pitching injuries have the Mariners still undecided on a starter for the finale of the four-game series against the White Sox on Sunday. “That’s four days away,” Servais said with a smile.
As the Mariners have found out all to well, a lot can happen between now and then.