Everything remains thumbs up for ailing Seattle Mariners pitchers James Paxton and Taijuan Walker in their efforts to return to the rotation.
Both threw bullpen workouts before Wednesday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field.
“Great, feel great,” Paxton said after a 52-pitch session in which he “threw everything.” It was his third bullpen workout in his recovery from a strained back (latissimus dorsi) muscle and puts the left-hander in line for the next step: a simulated game Saturday in Minneapolis.
Tentative plans call for Paxton to work two simulated games and then head out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment. (Pitchers face hitters in simulated games but take extended breaks to mirror game conditions.)
Walker threw 40 pitches in his second bullpen workout since the latest flare-up of shoulder soreness. He mixed in a few curveballs and cutters with a fastball/change-up repertoire.
“Good, really good,” Walker said. “My fastball location was really good today.”
Plans call for Walker to throw another bullpen workout Saturday in Minneapolis. Barring problems, the right-hander should then be ready to move on to simulated games.
HARD ON THE HANDS
Mariners catcher John Buck somehow avoided a broken hand when a foul tip struck his throwing hand in the seventh inning. The ball off the bat of Ryan Hanigan slammed into the knuckles on Buck’s right hand.
“I thought it was bad,” Buck said. “I think what helped is I was holding it loose. I think it worked itself out, but it’s a little sore.”
Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist wasn’t as fortunate on a slide at second base when he was thrown out stealing to end the fifth inning. Zobrist suffered a dislocated left thumb and left the game.
It’s likely Zobrist will miss several games. Club officials say he will remain with the Rays on their trip to Anaheim, California, before being re-evaluated when the club returns home.
FOR THE BOOKS
Hisashi Iwakuma achieved a franchise first in Tuesday night’s disappointing no-decision in a 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
Iwakuma became the first Mariners pitcher with back-to-back games of eight or more shutout innings without allowing a walk.
No pitcher since San Diego’s Randy Jones in 1980 has pitched three consecutive games of eight or more scoreless innings without allowing a walk. (Jones pitched three consecutive complete-game shutouts with no walks.)
Iwakuma struck out five with no walks against the Rays before handing a 1-0 lead to Fernando Rodney. Last Thursday, Iwakuma struck out seven in eight innings against the Kansas City Royals before Rodney closed out a 1-0 win.
In all, Iwakuma has allowed just one walk while striking out 15 over 22† innings in his three starts since returning from the disabled list. He also has allowed four runs (and 14 hits) for a 1.59 earned-run average.
Outfielder/designated hitter Logan Morrison is making progress in his recovery from a strained right hamstring. He will be with the Mariners on their road trip and participate in simulated games.
But don’t look for him in the lineup anytime soon. Not the Mariners’ lineup anyway.
“He’s definitely going to have to go out (on a minor league rehab assignment),” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s been out a while. He will definitely go out, and he will take full advantage of the rehab situation.”
Such an assignment can last 20 days for nonpitchers.
Morrison was batting .150 (3-for-20) in eight games before suffering the injury before the April 14 game against the Texas Rangers.
“I just know he needs to go get some at-bats and get right,” McClendon said. “He was hitting (.150) when he got hurt. It’s not like he was hitting .350. So he needs to get some at-bats.”
It was one year ago Thursday — May 15, 2013 — that Raul Ibañez highlighted a seven-run first inning in New York by hitting a grand slam in a 12-2 victory over the Yankees.
Ibañez, at 40 years and 347 days, became the oldest player to hit a grand slam at either Yankee Stadium (the original stadium opened in 1923). He also hit a two-run homer.
The Mariners, at 20-20, have their first nonlosing record through 40 games since they were 25-15 in 2003. … Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a scoreless seventh and has a streak of 12 1/2 scoreless innings since April 21. … Robinson Cano drew a walk in the seventh, extending his streak of reaching base safely at least once to 23 games. … Left-hander Randy Wolf, released by the Mariners late in spring training, signed with the Miami Marlins after opting out of his minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Mariners released Wolf after he declined to accept a 45-day advance release clause. They then signed right-hander Chris Young, who agreed to such a clause. The 45-day period expired Tuesday, which means Young’s $1.25 million deal is guaranteed. … Robert McPherson of Tacoma sang the national anthem and nailed it.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before opening a five-game trip at 5:10 p.m. Friday with the first of three weekend games at Minnesota.
Young (3-0, 2.63 ERA) will pitch the opener against the Twins, who are starting right-hander Kyle Gibson (3-3, 3.74). Root Sports will carry the game.