The countdown clock on injured Seattle Mariners pitchers James Paxton and Taijuan Walker is about to enter an accelerated phase. Both are scheduled to start throwing from a mound this weekend in bullpen workouts.
“I’m anxious to get back on a mound,” said Paxton, who suffered a strained left back muscle April 8 while pitching the home opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
“Everything is feeling great. No pain back there. I’m feeling strong.”
Walker says much the same thing in his ongoing battle to overcome shoulder soreness, which surfaced early in spring training and returned last month after he made two minor league rehabilitation starts.
“I’ve been close a few times,” he said, “and then it’s been a step back. I think this time is it.”
The plan calls for Paxton to throw 25 pitches Friday from a mound. Barring problems, he will throw again before Sunday’s game. Walker is slotted to start throwing Sunday — about 20 pitches — from a mound.
“After that, they’ll probably go every other day for a couple of times,” trainer Rick Griffin said. “We usually like them to throw three bullpens. After they get through three bullpens, we’ll have them do a (simulated) game.”
After a simulated game, if no problems surface, the next step usually is a minor league rehab assignment, which can last up to 30 days for pitchers. It is limited to 20 days for nonpitchers.
Second baseman Robinson Cano, deciding his face needed a rest, arrived clean-shaven for Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals.
“This is the longest I’ve had my beard,” he said. “I’ve had it for five or six months. So I wanted to let my face rest a little.”
Cano said that during his 13 years in the New York Yankees organization, he typically grew a beard in the offseason but would go clean-shaven during the season in accordance with franchise rules.
The Mariners have no such restriction.
How long will Cano remain clean-shaven?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe I’ll let it grow right away.”
Asked if a three-hit night might affect his thinking, he feigned outrage: “Three hits? C’mon! I’ve got to hit a couple of homers (for it to matter). Really, I just want to rest my face a little bit.”
ON THE CLOCK
Before the game, manager Lloyd McClendon indicated the organization’s patience could be running thin on two struggling players who started Thursday: shortstop Brad Miller and outfielder Cole Gillespie.
Miller carried a .178 average into the game with just five hits in his past 45 at-bats. He also had errors in two of his previous three games.
“He’s not playing well right now, obviously,” McClendon said. “He needs to step it up. He knows that. We’re trying to get him relaxed and to just go out and play his game.”
Gillespie was 3-for-17 in seven games after being promoted April 24 from Triple-A Tacoma, where he batted .362 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 16 games.
“His at-bats haven’t been great here,” McClendon said. “Obviously, you only get so many chances to go out and show what you can do. That’s just the way it is at this level. We want to make sure he gets that opportunity.
“It’s no different than the message I sent to everybody else. It’s simple: At some point, you’ve got to produce.”
Promotions for the remaining three games against the Royals at Safeco Field:
- Friday is Girls Night Out. Women get a drink ticket and a feather boa for the price of their ticket.
- Saturday is Kyle Seager Bat Night. Everyone aged 14 and under gets a full-size, Seager-model Louisville Slugger.
- Sunday has two giveaways. The first 10,000 moms get what the club’s news release calls a “stylish Mariners cap,” while everyone 14 and under gets a “cool rope necklace.”
Hisashi Iwakuma entered Thursday with a streak of 40 1/3 shutout innings against American League Central teams. ... First baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison still isn’t able to run because of a strained right hamstring that surfaced before the April 14 game at Texas. ... The Mariners entered Thursday’s game with a 16-3 record when they’ve scored at least four runs. They were 1-13 when scoring fewer than four runs.
The Mariners continue their four-game series against Kansas City at 7:10 p.m. Friday. Seattle right-hander Brandon Maurer (1-0, 6.92 ERA) will oppose ex-Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas (2-1, 3.50). Root Sports will broadcast the game.