While longtime ace Felix Hernandez said he threw pain-free last Tuesday in a rehab start at Triple-A Tacoma, he was far from sharp in allowing five runs in two innings.
It wasn’t exactly a red flag because it wasn’t completely unexpected. It was Hernandez’s first game action since he exited an April 25 start at Detroit because of shoulder soreness later diagnosed as bursitis.
It was sufficient, though, for the Mariners to restructure Hernandez’s recovery timetable. He will now make at least three minor-league rehab starts instead of just two.
"We want to make sure he’s ready to go when he goes out there at the big-league level," manager Scott Servais said. "He’s probably going to be about 65 (pitches on Sunday) and do another rehab (start) after that."
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Previous plans called for Hernandez to throw about 80 pitches over six innings Sunday for the Rainiers at Cheney Stadium against Las Vegas (Mets) — and then be activated in time for a June 16 start at Texas.
Hernandez now projects to remain on the disabled list until June 21 or later. He was 2-2 with a 4.73 ERA in five starts prior to the injury.
"We’re trying to plan for the long haul," Servais said. "We don’t want to rush Felix back and then, 10 days or two weeks from now, he’s not feeling right, and we’ve got to skip him or something like that.
"Let’s make sure he’s completely right and on top of his game."
Exercising caution is easier to do because Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio have each pitched well as replacement parts in an injury-depleted rotation.
Plans call for Hernandez to accompany the Mariners on their upcoming trip to Minnesota and Texas.
Club officials haven’t announced a site for Hernandez’s third rehab start, which tentatively lines up as June 16. Tacoma is playing that night at El Paso (Padres), but he could also pitch for Double-A Arkansas at Springfield (Cardinals).
***Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will test his recovery from a sore shoulder Sunday by pitching two innings in a simulated game. He was diagnosed with inflammation in his shoulder after a May 3 start against the Los Angeles Angels.
Barring a setback, Iwakuma is likely to depart this week on a rehab assignment, which puts him loosely on schedule to return in late June to the active roster.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners