Much of the Mariners’ focus this week, as it’s been for several weeks, centers on their rotation. Specifically medical updates and their consequences.
Felix Hernandez is healthy and will rejoin the rotation Friday to start against Houston. Hisashi Iwakuma suffered a setback and will make at least one more rehab start.
Iwakuma’s delayed return means either Sam Gaviglio or, perhaps, just promoted Andrew Moore, will start Saturday against the Astros. Christian Bergman was optioned Wednesday to the Rainiers.
Drew Smyly will throw a simulated game Saturday and could begin a rehab assignment by the end of next week.
For all that, the focus shifts Wednesday to non-medical issues.
Lefty James Paxton is coming off two disappointing efforts after building an early-season resume — albeit one interrupted by a strained forearm muscle — as a potential Cy Young Award candidate.
Paxton gave up seven runs in just 3 2/3 innings last Friday in a 10-4 loss at Texas after allowing four runs in four innings on June 11 in a 4-0 loss to Toronto. His ERA spiked from 1.69 to 3.23 in that span.
"We’ve got to figure it out.," manager Scott Servais said. "We’ve got to get Pax in a good spot and going in the right direction again. The last couple (of starts) he just hasn’t looked comfortable out there. Everything looks like a struggle.
"He’s a big part of trying to dig us out of this little hole we’ve created here."
Paxton (5-2) appeared confident after his last start that he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre had already identified a problem, and that it could be easily fixed in a between-starts bullpen workout.
"The past two starts," he said, "you can tell that something’s not quite there. I’m in the process of trying to figure that out and figure out how to fix it."
The Tigers are likely to present Paxton with the same all-right-handed lineup they sent out Tuesday against lefty Ariel Miranda, who was also coming off a disappointing start: six runs in four innings at Minnesota.
Miranda held the Tigers to two runs and four hits in seven innings. The Mariners would take that Wednesday from Paxton. Even better would be a repeat of his seven scoreless innings on April 26 in Detroit.
***Detroit is starting veteran right-hander Justin Verlander (4-4, 4.50) in Wednesday’s game, which begins at 7:10 p.m. and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Verlander is 10-8 with a 3.09 ERA in 21 career starts against the Mariners, including 5-5 with a 3.89 ERA in 11 starts at Safeco Field. He limited the Mariners to one run in seven innings on April 27 in Detroit but got a no-decision. Ben Gamel’s RBI single in the ninth inning against Francisco Rodriguez lifted the Mariners to a 2-1 victory.
***Kyle Seager is 7-for-17 with three doubles and two homers in his career against Verlander, but Robinson Cano is just 13-for-57. Nelson Cruz is 11-for-43 with three homers.
***Paxton pitched seven innings April 26 in an 8-0 victory at Detroit and is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA in four career starts against the Tigers.
***Miguel Cabrera is 3-for-10 with two doubles in his career against Paxton, but he about the only Tiger who has fared well. Ian Kinsler is 2-for-10, while Justin Upton and Nicholas Castellanos are each 2-for-9.
***Verlander leads the American League with 42 walks.
***Gamel enters the game with a 12-game hitting streak and has hist in 22 of his last 23 games. He is batting .424 in that surge and .351 overall.
***Cruz had two RBIs in Tuesday’s victory and leads the American League with 55.
***Upton has reached base safely at least once in 18 straight games.
It was 15 years ago Wednesday — June 21, 2002 — that the Mariners played the Houston Astros for the first time in history.
Jamie Moyer pitched the first seven innings in an 8-0 victory at Minute Maid Park. Ruben Sierra and Dan Wilson hit homers. Current Detroit manager Brad Ausmus was the Astros’ catcher and went 1-for-3.
The Astros didn’t become a division rival until 2013, when they moved from the National League Central to the American League West. They arrive Friday for a three-game weekend series at Safeco Field.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners