James Paxton wasn’t the only former Tacoma Rainiers starter to take the mound Saturday at Safeco Field. Three and a half hours before Paxton made his major league debut against the Tampa Bay Rays, fellow left-hander Danny Hultzen pitched a three-inning simulated game.
It was Hultzen’s first work since his return to the Rainiers on Sept. 1, pitching two scoreless innings against Sacramento, and just his second since he left June 27 with shoulder irritation that sidelined him for the second time in 2013.
“I’ve spent too much time on the bench watching,” said Hultzen. “It’s good to get back out there.”
In front of an audience that included general manager Jack Zduriencik, manager Eric Wedge, trainer Rick Griffin and pitching coach Carl Willis, Hultzen threw 51 pitches, concentrating more on post-injury delivery adjustments than on the velocity and movement of the ball.
“A couple of mechanical things I’m working on was my main focus out there,” said Hultzen “I wasn’t trying to strike anybody out.”
Hultzen believes the long stride of his right leg caused him to throw across his body, putting undue stress on his left shoulder. He drew a line on the mound Saturday in a cognizant effort to shorten his right-leg stride.
“Throwing across my body, I probably put a lot of stress on my shoulder,” said Hultzen. “I’m not saying that’s the cause of my issues, but it could have been. So I draw a the line on the mound and try to step directly on it. I was a couple of inches off, but I’m getting there.”
Zduriencik and Wedge were pleased with Hultzen’s workout.
“He looked free and easy,” pronounced Wedge, “and was consistent with his delivery.”
The plan is for Hultzen to continue his rehabilitation in Arizona. He’ll report to the instructional league, then go home for a break before returning to the Arizona Fall League, which runs between early October and mid-November.
An injury-free Fall League campaign would enable Hultzen to salvage what has been a sporadically successful but trying season for the No. 2 overall selection of the 2011 draft. When he wasn’t dealing with shoulder soreness, the 23-year-old University of Virginia product dominated Pacific Coast League hitters. In six Triple A starts, he went 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA, striking out 34 and walking seven.
“Danny’s had a tough year with injuries,” said Wedge. “But he’s stronger for it and all the wiser for it. He’s handled it like a pro. That says a lot about him as a player and as a man.”
Said Hultzen: “What I’ve learned from this experience is not to take anything for granted. I know that sounds kind of sappy, but when you’re healthy, you take things for granted. When that’s taken away from you real quick, it puts things in perspective.”
The Mariners on Saturday recalled left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise from Tacoma. LaFromboise spent most of the season with the Rainiers, going 6-0 with five saves in 45 relief appearances. Two brief major league stints were not as encouraging: Four appearances and five earned runs, for an ERA of 16.87. … Paxton became the 11th Mariners player to make his big league debut in 2013. Said Wedge: “We’ve had something like 30 guys make their major league debuts over the past couple years. That’s pretty exciting stuff.” … Because of a conflict with the Seahawks season opener at Carolina, the radio broadcast of today’s Mariners-Rays game has been moved to 770-AM.
The finale of the three-game series is 1:10 this afternoon. Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (5-1, 5.07 ERA) will face Rays lefty Matt Moore (15-3, 3.27). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 770-AM.firstname.lastname@example.org