It appears increasingly likely that Mariners right-handed reliever Shae Simmons will open the season on the disabled list.
Club officials put Simmons in a no-throw mode last Sunday after a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam revealed a strained muscle in his forearm. He exited a March 11 game against Cincinnati because of elbow stiffness.
While the Mariners aren’t yet ruling out Simmons from being ready for the April 3 season opener at Houston, there is no planned date yet for him to resume throwing.
"He isn’t throwing yet," manager Scott Servais reported Friday, "but everything there is moving in the right direction. Again, we will be very cautious with that one. There’s not a whole lot of talk about when he might start throwing again."
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The Mariners break camp two weeks from Saturday, which leaves Simmons little time to work through a standard throwing program once he gains medical clearance.
"Depending on how long he’s going to be down," Servais conceded, "my guess is yeah, he’s going to need to be built up a little bit."
The diagnosis of a strained muscle was actually good news for Simmons, who had feared the problem might be related to his repaired elbow ligament. He missed much of the last two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Mariners acquired Simmons in a Jan. 11 trade from Atlanta to address their need for a power right-handed setup reliever, and he quickly positioned himself to fill that role by reaching the upper-90s this spring with his fastball.
Club officials previously conceded former closer Steve Cishek, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery, won’t be ready by opening day. He is still tracking for a mid-April return.
That leaves the Mariners with two likely right-handed openings in a projected seven-man bullpen alongside closer Edwin Diaz and setup relievers Nick Vincent and Evan Scribner.
The biggest beneficiary is likely to be Dan Altavilla, who entered camp viewed as Simmons’ chief competitor for duty as a power right-hander. Veteran Casey Fien also figures to get a closer look than anticipated earlier in camp.
Another possibility is Tony Zych, who should be ready for game action within a week. He is tentatively slotted to pitch one more session of live batting practice in his recovery from October surgery for a biceps tendon transfer.
The Mariners could also opt for a third lefty reliever by keeping Ariel Miranda and James Pazos in addition to matchup lefty Marc Rzepczynski.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners