Third baseman Kyle Seager says he’s ready to return to the Seattle Mariners lineup after working his way back from a hand injury and surgery that cost him most of his spring.
The 31-year-old took batting practice on Wednesday with former teammate Ichiro Suzuki pitching at T-Mobile Park. Seager has also resumed all other normal baseball activities.
“Everything feels good,” he said. “I’m ready to roll.”
Seager can’t officially return until he’s eligible to be reactivated from the 60-day injured list on May 25, but says he’s physically ready for a rehabilitation assignment.
He said he no longer even thinks about pain in his left hand — he had surgery to repair a tendon on March 12 after landing awkwardly diving for a ball during spring training — when going through workouts.
“The thought about my hand, it crept up maybe the first couple times I was doing it obviously,” Seager said. “Like the first time I swung a bat, the dry swings were a bit, ‘This is going to hurt.’ The first time I hit off a tee, you’re thinking about it, but once I kind of realized there’s nothing there, it doesn’t even cross my mind anymore.”
Seager said he was able to continue leg workouts and throwing while healing, and he’s felt comfortable swinging since recently picking up the bat again.
“He looked really good,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I know he was happy with it, and I was too just watching it. Swinging easy, not really thinking about his hand at all.
“The ball is coming off of his bat really well. First day out there the coach is flipping it in there 50-55 mph, but it looked pretty good.”
Servais said Seager will likely begin a minor-league rehab assignment soon, but specific details have not been worked out. Seager will stay in Seattle during the Mariners’ upcoming road trip to Cleveland, New York and Boston.
“Obviously he’s got to build up, just to get the reps in,” Servais said. “He’ll stay here when we go on the road and continue work, and also get to the point where he’s facing some velocity.”
Seager will continue to work off of pitching machines before seeing live pitching during his upcoming rehab assignment. He said he’s felt comfortable with his swing so far.
“I played a little bit of spring training,” he said. “Didn’t get, obviously, a full camp by any means. So, I’ll go down there and play in a few games, but I don’t think it should be too long. ... Play some games, get everything right, and just kind of wait for May 25.”
Seager posted a .221/.273/.400 line in 2018, while hitting 22 homers for the Mariners.
KIKUCHI’S NEXT START
Japanese rookie left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (1-1, 4.54 ERA) is scheduled to make his eighth start of the season Friday in Cleveland, and will resume his usual schedule after last week’s short start.
About every fifth start or so, the Mariners plan to have Kikuchi throw just one inning to open the game, to preserve his arm throughout the season. In Japan, starting pitchers appear once per week. Seattle wants to ease Kikuchi into the MLB’s normal five-day rotation.
“I don’t think we’ll fully know anything, the value of it, until we get into September,” Servais said. “We certainly felt the first inning the other night looked great. But, we’re playing long-term here, and I think we’ll have a true read on it once we get into September, and (look) forward to future years on how it played out.”
Servais said he doesn’t think the short start followed by another full cycle through the rotation will impact Kikuchi in his next full start.
“I’m looking for him to have good stuff and be really effective when he goes out in Cleveland on Friday, but we have to monitor it throughout the year,” Servais said. “We will stay disciplined to it. It’s hard when you see him throw as well as he did the other night. You want to run him back out there for another inning.
“But, you know what the plan is going in. We won’t really know the true value of it until we get to the end of the year.”
Felix Hernandez (1-2, 4.31) has recorded eight strikeouts in each of his past two starts, and is nearing the 2,500 mark for his career.
He needs four to reach that milestone and is scheduled to pitch twice during Seattle’s upcoming trip in New York and Boston.
Hernandez received his third no-decision on Tuesday. He hasn’t recorded a win since his first start of the season on April 1. Tuesday, he pitched six innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on eight hits with eight strikeouts and one walk. He threw 96 pitches.
He is adjusting well to emphasizing pitches that were secondary earlier in his career — particularly his curveball.
“You can talk about using a certain pitch more,” Servais said. “It’s got to be a good pitch and a quality pitch. I thought his curveball, the last two or three times out, has been really good.
“You can see the finish to the pitch. The spin and all of that other stuff, the shape, but it keeps going. It’s not just getting there and kind of hanging there. There’s a lot of finish to it. Those are all good signs.”