ARLINGTON, Texas — The next step for Mariners left-hander James Paxton, after throwing 53 pitches Tuesday in a simulated game, is a minor-league rehab assignment to test his recovery from a strained back muscle.
“I’m ready for it,” said Paxton, who left an April 8 start against the Angels because of a strained left latissimus dorsi muscle. “I feel like I’m ready to get into some games.
“I was letting a few more go today. It’s time to step it up and get back into that game mode.”
Right-hander Taijuan Walker appears one step behind Paxton after reporting no problems in his 35-pitch simulated game. Plans call for Walker to pitch one more simulated game before heading out on a rehab assignment.
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“Threw everything,” he said. “Everything felt good. My mechanics felt good. It felt like everything was in sync. My balance point was good.
“One of the biggest things I’ve been working on is finishing my pitches to keep less stress off my arm. I think I did that today.”
Walker believes a failure to follow through properly on pitches was a major cause in the shoulder soreness that first surfaced in February.
“I was standing tall,” he said. “So I put that in my throwing program. Everything I do, I finish it and over-exaggerate it, so that when I’m on the mound, I’ll feel that finish.”
Infielder Nick Franklin, as expected, joined the Mariners prior to Tuesday’s game after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to replace injured designated hitter Corey Hart on the roster.
Hart was examined Monday in Seattle by the club’s medical director, Dr. Edward Khalfayan — and the news wasn’t good. He has a grade-2 strain in his left hamstring.
“My understanding is he’s out four-to-six weeks,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’ve got to find (a DH). We don’t have one. Franklin is DHing tonight. I think we’d all agree he’s not a typical DH.”
Franklin contributed two singles and sacrifice fly to Tuesday’s 6-2 victory over the Rangers.
The Mariners were close to recalling Franklin last week in hopes of finding a spark for a struggling attack. They held off when Franklin experienced some back soreness.
“About a week ago in (Las) Vegas,” Franklin said, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and had a little stiff neck and a stiff back. Got some treatment, and I’m ready to roll. No problems.”
Franklin, 23, was 2-for-16 over seven games in a previous promotion but returns after batting .376 for the Rainiers with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 30 games.
“I’d imagine he’ll play some outfield,” McClendon said. “He’ll play some shortstop. He’ll DH. If Robby (Cano) DHs, he might play second.”
Hart was batting .209 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 37 games prior to his injury.
The Mariners’ DH problems are exacerbated because Logan Morrison continues to make slow progress in his recovery from a strained right hamstring suffered more than five weeks ago.
Morrison took part in the simulated games against Paxton and Walker but remains less than 100 percent while running the bases.
“It’s just (a matter) of getting back at it,” he said, “and trying to remember — it’s weird to say this — how to run. You just kind of feel uncoordinated when you haven’t done it in a while.
“It’s a little different when you go from the elliptical and then try to sprint outside. I’m trying to get the feel back.”
Morrison remains hopeful that he’ll be ready for a rehab assignment by the end of the week, but club officials caution he must show more improvement in running drills before he is ready for game competition.
The Mariners are about to take another chance on a recovering Tommy John patient after reaching agreement with veteran reliever Todd Coffey on a minor-league deal.
Coffey, 33, missed all of last season but recently held a workout for for scouts. Jeff Passan of yahoo.com reported Coffey’s fastball hit 91-92 mph with a slider between 82 and 84 mph.
Plans call for Coffey, who is recovering from his second reconstructive-elbow surgery, to head to Arizona to undergo a physical either Wednesday night for Thursday morning.
Coffey is 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds. He is 25-18 with a 4.10 ERA in 461 games over eight years with four clubs.
Kyle Seager went 3-for-5 and has multiple hits in five of eight games this season against the Rangers. He is batting .364 (12-for-33) against Texas and .200 (23-for-115) against everyone else…Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre went 2-for-3 with a homer against Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Beltre is 10-for-25 with three homers in his career against Iwakuma…When Iwakuma started the fourth with a walk to Elvis Andrus, it ended a streak of 21 2/3 innings without yielding a walk…Iwakuma is 6-0 with a 2.91 ERA in his last eight starts against American League West opponents…Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland was 2-for-3 and had 10 hits in 20 at-bats this season against the Mariners.
Robinson Cano is featured in the latest installment of Major League Baseball’s “For the Love of Baseball” campaign. Here’s an online link to the 30-second spot: http://atmlb.com/1jzRxQ3
Cano’s “sweet swing” is highlighted by superimposing six different videos of him hitting pitches in different parts of the strike zone.
Previous spots featured Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, David Price and Mike Trout.
It was a year ago Wednesday — May 21, 2013 — that Angels outfielder Mike Trout became the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle in a 12-0 romp over the Mariners at Angel Stadium.
Trout went 4-for-5 and his cycle came at an age of 21 years, 287 days. It was sixth time an opponent had hit for the cycle against the Mariners.
The Mariners conclude their two-game stay in Texas at 11:10 a.m. Pacific time Wednesday at Globe Life Park. Right-hander Chris Young (3-1 and 3.22) will face Texas righty Nick Tepesch (0-0, 1.69).
Root Sports will carry the game.
The Mariners return Thursday to Safeco Field for the start of the season’s longest homestand: 11 games; four against Houston, four against Los Angeles; and three against Detroit.