Smyly threw a 40-pitch bullpen session with a high level of intensity and no fear of aggravating his previous flexor strain.
ARLINGTON, Texas — With the temperature touching 100 degrees on the playing surface of Globe Life Park early in the afternoon, left-hander Drew Smyly worked through his longest bullpen session of his recovery from a strained flexor in his forearm. Both he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre exited the sauna-like conditions sweaty and satisfied.
Per Stottlemyre, Smyly threw 40 pitches — 30 fastballs and 10 offspeed pitches — and showed significant improvement in intensity, stamina and his delivery from his previous session in Minneapolis.
“His intensity increased 15 to 20 percent from his previous bullpen, which was surprising,” Stottlemyre said. “Any time you go through (an injury), you are always going to question the ball out of your and if you are going to have that pain and how far can you take it, worrying about re-injuring it, that’s played a big part in him not getting after things too early. But in his last bullpen, I thought the last 10 pitches he made in Minnesota he made some strides in getting his body to go down the slope (of the mound) and get that extension out front with the ball out of his hand. Today it was outstanding.”
Smyly seems to have pushed through the initial fears and is in a place mentally where it’s about preparing himself to pitch instead of recovering from the injury that put him on the disabled list in spring training.
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“If I didn’t know what I know about him and where he’s been with his injury, I wouldn’t have known that he had anything wrong,” Stottlemyre said. “Intensity from pitch one to pitch 40. It was like his last few pitches in his last bullpen.”
The 10 breaking pitchers were a mixture of curveballs, cutters and changeups.
“Now, he’s just trying to get the ball to spin and get a feel for it,” Stottleymre said. “It was very, very good — a positive move forward for sure.”
So what’s next?
Smyly will throw another bullpen where the intensity will be bumped up a little bit more with more offspeed pitches mixed in.
“It will be maybe a few more pitches, but he threw 40 pitches in this one and that’s a lot,” Stottlemyre said. “That’s a long bullpen. He didn’t hold back this time. He said he got less tired at the end with his endurance. He bumped up the intensity from pitch one and held it.”
If Smyly’ s upcoming bullpen — likely after three to four days of rest — goes as well as the one in Texas, he could make a next step up in the recovery plan — a simulated game.
“If that bullpen is good, he spins all of his stuff and he’s not holding back and we think the next step could be seeing some hitters, which takes his thoughts off of his mechanics and delivery and all that, we’ll do that and keep moving forward,” Stottlemyre said. “Today was a good sign.”
Because the process and recovery is much like spring training, Smyly is still in the earliest aspect of his throwing program. The realistic anticipation of a return to the rotation should be sometime after the All-Star break.
The Mariners made yet another roster move. As expected, right-hander Chase De Jong, who pitched four scoreless innings of relief on Thursday in a 6-2 loss to the Twins, was optioned back to Class AAA Tacoma. Left-hander Zac Curtis was recalled from Class AA Arkansas to take his spot in the bullpen. Curtis was 0-2 with seven saves and a 2.66 ERA in 19 relief appearances for the Travelers.
Felix Hernandez (shoulder bursitis) is scheduled to throw 80-85 pitches on Saturday night at Cheney Stadium with Class AAA Tacoma in his third rehab outing. He is expected to return to the rotation after that outing.
“He’s ready to go,” Stottlemyre said. “I just want to see him get up to 85 pitches. I didn’t want him to come back and think about his delivery and fight himself and guys at this level and hope we can get 100 pitches out of him to help us win a game.”
Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder inflammation) will make his second rehab start on Monday with the Rainiers. He’s scheduled to throw 75 pitches.
“The next time is hopefully with us,” Stottlemyre said. “He’s not a 115-pitch guy anyway. If we can get him to 75, he can come back and pitch for us and hope to get him to five or six innings and 85 pitches.”
Shortstop Jean Segura (high ankle sprain) participated in two workouts on Friday. He ran the bases to test his ankle before batting practice and then did normal pregame work with the rest of the team. He may go out on a brief one or two-game rehab assignment on Sunday or Monday.