Two rehabbing right-handed relievers took major steps Thursday in their efforts to work their way back onto the Mariners’ active roster.
Tony Zych breezed through one 12-pitch inning against a collection of Texas minor-leaguers in his first game action since undergoing surgery on Oct. 11 for a biceps tendon transfer.
Steve Cishek threw 22 pitches at roughly 80 percent in his first workout from a mound since undergoing surgery Oct. 12 to repair a torn hip labrum.
While Zych has an outside chance to pitch his way onto the roster for opening day, Cishek’s best-case scenario remains a mid-April return.
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Zych, 26, recorded a one-two-three inning against Double-A Frisco in the Texas system. He threw eight of 12 pitches for strikes while recording two outs on grounders to second before striking out the third hitter.
"How can you not be excited?" he said. "It’s been a while. In warmups, I felt myself pulling a little bit. I cleaned it up after the first couple of pitches. It was all good. I was surprised it was as smooth as it was."
Tentative plans call for Zych to make his Cactus League debut March 27 against San Diego. That could allow him to pitch at least one more time prior to the Mariners’ season opener April 3 at Houston.
"It would be tough," manager Scott Servais admitted. "There is a schedule mapped out where he probably wouldn’t break with us. You’d like to be able to see him go back-to-back days."
Cishek, 30, is slotted for another bullpen workout on Sunday. A typical progression of bullpens, throwing to hitters in live batting practice and game action is likely to require a few weeks.
"A good first step," he said. "I came in excited. I never thought I’d be this excited to throw a bullpen. I was just trying to get out in my delivery and not favor my hip at all. It was a good test. I didn’t feel anything."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners