SEATTLE — A hold-the-rope mentality remains in place for the Mariners’ bullpen until Charlie Furbush and Joaquin Benoit, the two relievers once projected as the unit’s primary set-up guys, can return to active duty.
Furbush is well into his throwing program after undergoing a series of blood injections earlier this month in hopes of accelerating the healing process in his ailing left shoulder.
"I’m feeling good," he said, "but, as I always say, I’ve got to take it a day at a time and not try to get ahead of myself. But it’s just been good days after good days. Hopefully, that streak runs for a long, long time."
Furbush’s problems surfaced last July and, when he experienced lingering day-after tightness following spring workouts, he agreed to try a series of Regenokine Therapy injections.
While still limited to long-toss workouts, Furbush said he longer feels the day-after tightness. The next major test will be when he gets on a mound for a bullpen workout.
"I must say it’s going well," Furbush said. I had three days on. Had a day off. Then another three or four days on. It’s going good. I’m feeling strong. And, definitely, the ball is coming out great."
Benoit hasn’t thrown since April 21; he was placed on the disabled list at the start of the current homestand because of inflammation in his right shoulder.
"I know he’s doing some exercises and trying to strengthen up the shoulder," manager Scott Servais said. "He’s on some medication. I don’t have a timetable right now for when he’s going to start throwing. That probably happens this week."
With Benoit and Furbush unavailable, the Mariners have relied, primarily, on veteran Joel Peralta to pitch as the eighth inning. That could change this weekend against Kansas City.
"They do have some accomplished left-handed hitters," Servais said. "It could be a situation where (left-hander Vidal) Nuno works his way in that spot. I like the way Nuno’s thrown the ball all year."
Nuno entered the series with a 1.29 ERA after giving up just one run in seven innings in seven appearances.
Second baseman Robinson Cano entered the weekend with a league-leading 24 RBIs. Washington outfielder Bryce Harper also had 24, but nobody else in the American League had more than 19.
Even so, Cano needed a couple of big games to match the club record of 30 RBIs prior to May 1 set by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997. Griffey followed that a year later by getting 27 RBIs through the end of April.
Alex Rodriguez ranks third in franchise history with 26 RBIs through April in 2000. That same year, Edgar Martinez had 25 RBIs.
Cano’s total, with two games remaining, matched another Griffey season, 1999, for the fifth-highest total in franchise history.
Third-base coach Manny Acta created a stir in the Dominican Republic after reaching a three-year deal to become the vice president for baseball operation for the Aguilas after spending the last three years as the general manager at Licey.
That’s like switching from the Red Sox to the Yankees.
"It’s going to be a big challenge," Acta said. "It’s controversial back home, but I’m a professional. It’s what I do. I was a free agent and, for me, it is an honor that Aguilas has shown interest and gone through the process."
Gigantes also pursued Acta after he failed to reach agreement with Licey on a new contract.
"We couldn’t agree to terms," he said. "They were under the impression that because I was going to be working here with the Mariners, that I wasn’t going to have enough time. Also, the economic side got in the way a little bit.
"You just part ways."
It was 30 years ago Saturday — April 30, 1986 — that the Mariners struck out 16 times in a 9-4 loss at Boston.
That followed their 20-strikeout futility a day earlier against Roger Clemens in a 3-1 loss to the Red Sox and set a record for strikeouts in consecutive games at 36.
The Mariners entered the weekend at just one game over .500 at 11-10 but were plus-17 in run differential, which ranked third among American League clubs. Chicago led the league at plus-21, followed by Baltimore at plus-20…the Mariners’ 3.33 ERA, through Thursday, was also third among AL clubs. Chicago led at 2.55, and Tampa Bay was second at 3.20…the Mariners entered the weekend with four players who had at least four home runs: Robinson Cano had eight, while Nelson Cruz, Leonys Martin and Kyle Seager each had four. The only club in either league with more than four players with four or more homers was St. Louis, which had five.
The Mariners and Royals continue their three-game weekend series at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field.
Note the time: First pitch has been pushed back one hour to ease traffic concerns caused by the Sounders’ afternoon game at CenturyLink Field and the closing of the AlaskanWay Viaduct.
Lefty Wade Miley (1-2 with a 7.04 ERA) will face Kansas City right-hander Yordano Ventura (2-0, 2.35). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners