Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma called it a "step in the right direction" after throwing two simulated innings Saturday in his recovery from sore shoulder.
But just a step.
"It’s been a long time since I've faced hitters," he cautioned. "The intensity level is a little higher, and it did feel a little awkward. But I feel we’re making progress."
One definite plus: Iwakuma said he no longer feels discomfort in his shoulder.
"That’s gone now," he confirmed. "I’m moving forward. I think it’s just timing, timing in my lower body syncing into my upper body. I don’t have the right timing yet."
Iwakuma was diagnosed with inflammation in his shoulder after a May 3 start against the Angels. His simulated game came one week after he expressed disappointment at his performance in his first bullpen workout since the injury.
While this was better, manager Scott Servais said Iwakuma is likely to require another simulated game before he begins a minor-league rehab assignment. Iwakuma was 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA in six starts prior to his injury.
"He’s not quite consistent in his release point yet," Servais said. "He knows it, but you get hitters in there, you dial up the intensity a little bit and sometimes you get a better read on where you’re at.
"He’ll probably do that again here in the next few days."
Another simulated game, barring a setback, would put Iwakuma in line to begin a minor-league rehab assignment by the end of next weekend. He is likely to require at least two rehab starts, which would position him for a late June return.
***Outfielder Mitch Haniger reported no day-after problems Saturday after testing his recovery from a strained right oblique Friday by taking part in all aspects of batting practice.
If Haniger responds similarly throughout the remainder of the weekend, he is expected to depart on a minor-league rehab assignment to Triple-A Tacoma. In a best-case scenario, he could return to active duty by next weekend.
Haniger was batting .342 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 21 games when he suffered the injury April 25 at Detroit.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners