PEORIA, Ariz. — The thinning continues in the Mariners’ bullpen.
General manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed Wednesday that right-handed relievers Evan Scribner and Ryan Cook are likely to open the season on the disabled list because of strained latissimus dorsi muscles in their back.
Both underwent re-examinations earlier this week.
"Actually, the news was better than we expected," Dipoto said, "but it still looks like they’re going to open the season down here (in extended spring training). That’s going to create opportunities for some other guys."
Meanwhile, luckless left-hander Danny Hultzen is back on the shelf after experiencing renewed shoulder problems after throwing 25 pitches Saturday in live batting practice.
"He’s in a holding pattern right now," manager Scott Servais confirmed. "Some stiffness in his shoulder. I don’t see when he’ll be in a game. That’s too bad.
"We brought him in and used him exclusively as a reliever. It’s all about bouncing back. He was moving along very well, and then he had a setback."
Another club official characterized Hultzen’s status as "not good."
The injuries to Scribner and Cook appear to increase the opportunities for right-handers Tony Zych and Joel Peralta to win middle-relief roles Peralta is a non-roster invite and can choose to become a free agent if he doesn’t make the club.
"From what I understand," Servais said, "you probably won’t see (Scribner or Cook) in game action any time soon. We’ve got to build them back up. Scribner, a chance to see him before Cook.
"Cookie is probably going to be down for a little bit, but Scribner has had (lat issues) happen a couple of different times (in his career), so we’re very cautious with those guys. It does take away from our depth."
Hultzen, 26, was the second overall pick in the 2011 draft and appeared on a fast track to the big leagues before a series of shoulder ailments derailed his career. He underwent surgery on Oct. 1, 2013 to repair his labrum and rotator cuff.
After missing all of 2014, Hultzen pitched just eight innings last year at Double-A Jackson before suffering a strained rotator cuff that ended his season. The Mariners converted him this year to a reliever in hopes of aiding his recovery.
KING ON THE HILL
Felix Hernandez breezed through a 29-pitch session of live batting over two simulated innings and declared himself ready to make his Cactus League debut.
"It felt pretty good," he said. "Physically, I feel really good. My mechanics were really good, too. My pitches were there. The 14th, I’ll be ready."
Current plans call for Hernandez to pitch three innings on March 14 against Colorado at Peoria Stadium. That puts him in line for four Cactus League starts before pitching the regular-season opener April 4 at Texas.
First baseman Adam Lind got his second two-game break of the spring Wednesday when the Mariners lined up Jesus Montero and Dae-Ho Lee for their game against Kansas City.
Servais cited two reasons for Lind’s light workload: A desire to ease him into the spring and the need to sift through a number of candidates to be his right-handed partner: Montero, Lee, Gaby Sanchez and Stefen Romero.
"We want to make sure (Lind) is good to go," Servais said. "He played a lot early last year in spring training, and he kind of messed (his back) up. So we’re taking a cautious approach.
"You’ll start to see him getting more consistent at-bats but, as you know, we have a lot of first basemen in camp. The primary goal is to get the guys who are going to play ready. Adam is fine physically. No issues there."
The Mariners opened official minor-league workouts Wednesday for 86 pitchers and 14 catchers. Full-squad drills for minor-league players begin March 14.
The minor-league games begin March 19, when Triple-A Tacoma and Double-A Jackson play their Cincinnati counterparts in Goodyear. Hi-A Bakersfield and Lo-A Clinton will play the Reds’ affiliates in Peoria.
All four affiliates play in Peoria against San Diego’s farm clubs on March 20: Tacoma and Jackson play on the Mariners’ side of the complex; Bakersfield and Clinton will play a few hundred yards away on the Padres’ fields.
Minor-league games run through April 2. All games start at 1 p.m.
It isn’t just the NCAA basketball tournament that produces March upsets.
The Mariners’ clubhouse pool tournament has already produced a major upset: first baseman Gaby Sanchez ousted reliever Tony Zych, the pre-tourney favorite, in the second round.
Servais authorized the purchased of a pool table after teammates commented on Zych’s skills in a morning meeting. Second baseman Robinson Cano covered the cost of the table.
An emerging tournament dark horse: first baseman Dae-Ho Lee was the first player to reach the fourth round.
It was 39 years ago Thursday — March 10, 1977 — that the Mariners played their first spring game in franchise history. And it was a doozy: A 16-10 loss to Oakland in Tempe.
The Mariners finished their first spring at 9-15. Their spring operations were based in Tempe through 1992.
The first round of roster cuts should roughly coincide with the start of full-squad drills in minor-league camp. Servias said a meeting is planned this weekend between the coaching staff and front-office personnel…The Mariners still haven’t determined whether lefty reliever Charlie Furbush will throw one more round of live batting practice before making his Cactus League debut. To date, Furbush has experienced no problems in his recovery from biceps tendinitis and a slight tear in his rotator cuff…Lefty Mike Montgomery is slotted to make his spring debut Saturday in a split-squad game against Cincinnati in Goodyear. He appears fully recovered from surgery earlier this spring to remove a cyst from his neck.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners