SEATTLE — An optimistic Tony Zych believes that, if he "stays on track," he could be ready within a week to test his recovery from tendinitis in his rotator cuff by getting on a mound for a bullpen workout.
Zych again resumed played catch prior to Sunday’s game against San Diego at Safeco Field. He hasn’t pitched since May 1, when he struck out the side in his only inning in a loss to Kansas City.
If Zych is able to throw from a mound in a week, a normal progression would roughly position him to return to active duty prior to the end of June.
Zych’s absence robbed the Mariners’ bullpen of its top right-handed power arm. He had 19 strikeouts in 12 innings over his 10 appearances when he went on the disabled list.
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Other injury updates:
***Shortstop Ketel Marte is scheduled to start a rehab assignment Tuesday at Triple-A Tacoma, when it opens a four-game series against Salt Lake (Angels) at Cheney Stadium.
Marte suffered a sprained left thumb on a slide at second base in a May 21 game at Cincinnati. He is expected to return to active duty when eligible to be activated June 6 from the disabled list.
***Center fielder Leonys Martin is expected to accompany the Mariners on their trip this week to San Diego and Texas but, like Marte, he will likely play some minor-league rehab games before he returns to active duty.
Martin suffered a strained left hamstring while stealing second base in a May 25 victory over Oakland. He is eligible to be activated on June 10.
"Because it’s a leg issue and he’s a speed guy," manager Scott Servias said, "(Martin) probably needs to get down (to the minors) and run at 100 percent. You activate that guy, and something happens in the first game, here you go again.
"That’s what we want to stay away from."
If Martin aggravates the injury on a rehab assignment, his time on the disabled list could simply be extended. If he is activated, and suffers renewed problems, the 15-day process would begin anew.
Yes, it was a miserable weekend for the Mariners. Getting swept at home by the Minnesota Twins who, even now, still possess the American League’s worst record and worst road record.
Those three losses knocked the Mariners out of first place in the American League West — they trailed Texas by one-half game prior to Monday’s action. So how did that affect their computer projections regarding postseason possibilities?
Less than you might think.
The Mariners remain heavy favorites to win the division title in projections by www.BaseballProspectus.com (60.8 percent) and www.Fangraphs.com (50.0 percent). Texas is the second choice in both at 24.1 and 28.1 percent.
When the wild-card possibilities are added, the Mariners rate a 72.0 percent chance, by Baseball Prospectus’ projections, to ended their 14-year postseason drought. Fangraphs pegs it at 64.1 percent.
Second baseman Robinson Cano entered Monday tied for the American League lead in homers, ranked second in RBIs and third in slugging percentage.
So it’s probably no big surprise that he ranked fifth in the majors in terms of making hard contact, as computed by Inside Edge after video reviews. Through Sunday, Cano made hard contact in 24.1 percent of his at-bats.
Those ahead of Cano: Detroit DH Victor Martinez (30.2), Boston DH David Ortiz (29.0), Baltimore shortstop Manny Machado (24.7) and New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (24.5).
Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager ranked 29th at 20.0 percent.
***Felix Hernandez (11.9 percent) and Taijuan Walker (14.9) ranked 20th and 53rd among pitchers surrendering the lowest hard-contact rate. Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard ranked first at 7.4 percent.
The effort to groom right-hander Edwin Diaz for a fast-track promotion to the big leagues passed another test Sunday when he pitched on back-to-back days for the first time since converting to bullpen duty.
Diaz, 22, stranded two inherited runners Sunday in Double-A Jackson’s 6-2 victory at Montgomery (Rays) after working one scoreless inning Saturday in a 5-1 victory over the Biscuits.
The Mariners switched Diaz to the bullpen in mid-May in the hope that he could provide a power arm to their big-league bullpen. That move occurred shortly after Zych went to the disabled list because of rotator-cuff tendinitis.
Diaz is generally viewed as the organizations’ most advance pitching prospect. He has allowed one earned run in 9 2/3 innings over nine relief outings while striking out 14 and walking one.
Club officials say Diaz could be promoted to the big leagues without a stop at Triple-A Tacoma but have expressed hesitancy to have him make his big-league debut at Texas, a renown hitters’ park.
Lo-A Clinton right-hander Nick Neidert allowed just one hit Sunday in five shutout innings but settled for a no-decision when the LumberKings’ bullpen coughed up four runs in the ninth inning in a 4-3 loss to Burlington (A’s).
Neidert, 19, has yielded just one earned run and five hits over 10 innings in two starts since being reassigned from extended spring training. He was the Mariners’ first pick in last year’s draft.
It was 17 years ago — May 31, 1999 — that the Mariners hit four homers in a 10-6 victory over Baltimore at the Kingdome. Alex Rodriguez hit two, and Ken Griffey Jr. and Butch Huskey each hit one.
The four homers boosted the club’s season count to 58, which set a major-league record for homers prior to the end of May.
The Mariners and Padres conclude the northern half of their four-game series at 12:40 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (3-4 with a 4.33 ERA) will face Padres right-hander James Shields (2-6, 3.06).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The teams then head to San Diego for night games on Wednesday and Thursday at Petco Park. From there, the Mariners travel to Texas for a three-game weekend series.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners