Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton, sidelined by a strained tendon in his finger, took an important — and pain-free — step Tuesday on his road to recovery.

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ARLINGTON, Tex. — Under the stifling afternoon Texas sun and with temperatures near 96 degrees, James Paxton made another important step on Tuesday in his recovery from a strained tendon in his middle finger. The big left-hander tossed a two-inning simulated game — throwing 15 pitches in each frame of the controlled environment. He also did a few fielding drills and practiced some pickoff moves to first base.

“It felt great,” Paxton said. “Everything felt good, no pain on any pitches and that was really good. I just wanted to get the ball down, execute a few pitches and have no pain at all, which is what happened, so that’s great.”

Pitching coach Rick Waits was upbeat, too.

“I’m not looking for anything in particular other than, when it’s over, he tells me he feels great,” Waits said. “To me. that is something good that is accomplished. What I saw today was the curveball and cutter were there. His curveball in the second round was very encouraging.”

Paxton’s spiked curveball, with the index finger raised like a knuckleball, puts plenty of pressure on that injured finger.

“He didn’t feel anything and that’s great,” Waits said

So what’s next for Paxton? “We’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” he said. “But after today, personally, I feel like I’m ready to go for a rehab start. But we’ll see what these guys want me to do.”

Waits and manager Lloyd McClendon won’t get ahead of themselves.

“He threw the ball with a lot of life,” McClendon said. “It was a good step forward. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and make a decision after that. Let’s just get through this day.”

If Paxton checks out fine on Wednesday, he would throw a bullpen session on Thursday and join Class AAA Tacoma on the weekend.

Waits saw enough from Paxton Tuesday to think that if he’s healthy a rehab start isn’t far off.

“You could go into a game with that,” he said. “I don’t just want him out there throwing pitches and throwing hard in his rehab. I want him to have pitches that can get people out. Today I saw a lot of really good pitches.”

If all goes well, Paxton could return to the mound in mid-September and make a handful of starts to close out the season.

Hultzen shut down till spring

Pitcher Danny Hultzen has been shut down until spring training of 2016. General manager Jack Zduriencik confirmed that the former No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft is no longer working to get back into a game situation.

“Danny is basically not going to throw at all this offseason,” Zduriencik said.

Hultzen battled shoulder fatigue this season. He missed all of the 2014 season while recovering from reconstructive shoulder surgery, repairing a damaged labrum, rotator cuff and capsule.

After a successful spring training, the Mariners had Hultzen start with Class AA Jackson in May. He made three starts with the Generals, throwing a total of eight innings. He was shut down with shoulder fatigue. After rehabbing in Arizona, Hultzen threw in an instructional-league game. But when the fatigue returned, the Mariners shut him down for the month of August.

Notes

•Outfielder Ramon Flores will have surgery Thursday to repair his broken leg and dislocated ankle. Team doctor Edward Khalfayan will do the surgery.

•With a first-inning RBI double, Nelson Cruz extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 29. It’s the longest streak in the American League this season.