Mariners starter James Paxton had been on a roll before a forearm injury earlier this month kept him out. He should return to the rotation on Thursday.

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The Mariners’ starting rotation should get a needed boost soon: James Paxton will likely start Thursday’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

Paxton hasn’t started for the Mariners in two weeks because of forearm soreness, the result of being hit by a line drive during his start on Aug. 7.

Paxton pitched three scoreless innings for Class AAA Tacoma on Saturday, giving up two hits and striking out three.

“It felt really good,” Paxton said. “No pain, no tightness, so that was awesome. It was really good to go out there and get back to throwing the ball 100 percent. It felt really good.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais said the reports on Paxton were positive: he threw the ball well, threw all of his pitches, had good velocity.

Servais said Paxton would likely be slotted to return on Thursday.

“He came in this morning and gave me the thumbs up,” he said. “A good report there. That was pretty much what I expected. Just to make sure and give him the time to get ready.”

The injury came when Paxton had settled into a groove. Paxton had a 1.59 ERA in his last four starts, and he had gone at least eight innings in his last two starts.

The Mariners rotation has been day-to-day, plug-and-play recently because of injuries and the demotion of Taijuan Walker. But Paxton’s return offers stability.

“I’m ready to get back that out there and get back going again, for sure,” Paxton said.

‘M Games’ controversy: To help liven up the grind of a baseball season, Servais and his coaching staff created the ‘M Games,’ a goofy spinoff of the Olympics.

The idea was to have players and coaches compete on different teams in different evens. The idea was not to have controversy, but that’s what Servais has on his hands right now.

“Nelson Cruz was disqualified from his competition yesterday,” Servais said before Sunday’s game against the Brewers. “He did not have the official M Games t-shirt on while he was competing in the second round of the tape toss.”

Servais held up a typed piece of paper on his desk.

“I have a formal appeal for him to be reinstated, which is going to be denied,” he said, slamming his fist down. “He’s out. Everyone only participates in one event, so he’s been disqualified. As he tried to plead his case yesterday, I patted him on the back and said, ‘The good thing is you’re still hitting fourth tonight. Go get them.”

One area where Zunino has improved: The development of catcher Mike Zunino, a long and windy process, is still ongoing; Servais said Zunino is far from a finished product.

But Zunino has been better in his return, especially in the month of August. He’s hitting .310 with a .434 on-base percentage in 16 in August. He has 13 strikeouts in 53 plate appearances. That’s a better strikeout rate than he had in previous seasons.

Servais pointed out a specific area in which he has seen Zunino get better.

“The thing that’s stuck out is he’s still been aggressive in the count,” Servais said. “He’ll take a big hack and swing and miss. But, when he gets to two strikes, has a two-strike approach. He’s shortening up his swing, he’s using the whole field, he’s not chasing as much. He’s still going to strike out; we all strike out. It’s part of the game. But not at the rates he was. He’s drawing a few walks, and even if he doesn’t win the at-bat with a walk or a hit, he’s seeing eight, nine, 10 pitches, which is very valuable for him and for our team.”