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A year ago at this time, Hisashi Iwakuma was simulating his throwing motion with a towel in his hand and a splint on his middle finger, meanwhile Danny Hultzen was forced to watch from the sidelines, unable to participate in most drills and barely able to throw more than  60 feet as his shoulder healed from massive reconstructive surgery.

On Sunday, both pitchers threw bullpen sessions on the second day of workouts for Mariners’ pitchers and catchers.

They  looked comfortable and threw the ball with no issues. “Free and easy” is the baseball term for it.

“I’m very excited,” Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. “It’s a different year and very different to where I was last year. I’m very motivated. I look forward to this season and I look forward to a good spring training as well.”

Hultzen was all smiles.

“It felt great,” Hultzen said. “My arm hasn’t felt this great in a long time. I’m really excited to be able to play again.”

Hultzen had surgery to repair a torn labrum and labral capsule on Oct. 1, 2013. It was a grueling year-long rehab that featured low points and tough days where he wondered if he ever would come back. But Hultzen tried his best to remain positive during the process.

“I did my best to stay positive,” he said. “There was one point – it was my first day at 60 feet. I was trying my hardest to get it there in the air. And I was like, ‘jeez, this is 60 feet, I’ve got to be able to throw it as hard as I can from here. This is going to be tough.”

That moment came during last spring training. It’s a little different feeling now.

“I feel like I’m back,” he said. “I feel the same. I don’t know if it looks the same.”

The player catching him for that bullpen was impressed and he has a little background with Hultzen. John Hicks caught the bullpen and he was also Hultzen’s catcher during their days at the University of Virginia.

Hicks said Hultzen looked great and was throwing free and easy. He said Hultzen’s velocity and movement was back to normal. The pitches just needed some fine tuning, which isn’t surprising considering the layoff.

“That’s good to hear,” Hultzen said.

Also, we bring you this moment of zen of Fernando Rodney …