Hard-throwing reliever Shae Simmons could be ready to provide a boost to the Mariners’ bullpen shortly after the All-Star break.
Simmons, 26, began a rehab assignment Thursday by pitching one scoreless inning for Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League. He faced three batters and struck out two.
"He threw great," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "Average velocity was 96 (mph). He felt good coming off the mound. Had good break on his breaking ball in a 14-pitch inning.
"He has a throwing progression that takes him through July 17. On July 17, if everything holds as planned, he should be ready (for the Mariners) to make a decision on whether we add him here or continue on at the minor-league level."
Simmons was diagnosed with a strained right elbow after leaving a March 11 game against Cincinnati in spring training. He suffered a setback in his recovery in late May just as he was prepared to begin a rehab assignment.
"He’s closer than he's been since he’s been in the organization," Dipoto said. "And we’re excited about that."
The Mariners acquired Simmons and outfielder Mallex Smith from Atlanta in a Jan. 11 trade for pitchers Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows. The Mariners then included Smith in a trade to obtain pitcher Drew Smyly from Tampa Bay.
Simmons underwent reconstructive elbow surgery (Tommy John surgery) on Feb. 12, 2015 but returned in time last season to make seven September appearances for the Braves.
***Utilityman Shawn O’Malley is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment his weekend in his recovery from surgery on his right shoulder. That injury surfaced while he was recovering from an appendectomy.
Plans call for O’Malley, 29, to initially serve primarily as a designated hitter in an Arizona Rookie League game.
"We’re going to rotate him," Dipoto said. "Two days at DH and one day of playing. We want Shawn to maintain his throwing program while he’s getting his at-bats.
"Because he’s a multi-positional player, that’s something we’re going to have to delicate with — particularly in throwing from the left side of the field on consecutive days. But he’s going to have to do that before he returns here."
That probably won’t be until August.
O’Malley is a switch-hitter who batted .229 last season in 89 games.
Even a knee injury that required nearly a year of rehabilitation couldn’t knock outfielder Kyle Lewis off the list of the game’s top prospects.
Lewis is cited as the No. 62 prospect in midseason rankings by Baseball America despite playing just eight games, through Thursday, after undergoing surgery last July to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee.
Even now, Lewis isn’t 100 percent. He is back in Arizona on a rehab assignment after bruising that same knee in just his second game at Hi-A Modesto.
"We’re still trying to handle him with kid gloves," Dipoto admitted. "Kyle is very important to our future. He has had intermittent issues with his knee. There’s no structural damage, but we need him to feel confident in what he’s doing before we set him loose.
"He’s played very well in the Arizona League, but we’re not going to send him (back) to Modesto until he’s fully confident in how his knee bounces back."
***Modesto right-hander Nick Neidert is No. 84 on the Baseball America list after a going 8-3 with a 2.86 ERA over 17 starts in the hitter-friendly California League. He was recently picked as the organization’s top prospect in the first half.
FINAL DRAFT COUNT
The Mariners confirmed four more signings from the MLB Draft in June prior to the 2 p.m. deadline Friday for reaching agreements with players who retain collegiate eligibility.
The late signings: right-handed pitcher Tommy Romero, a 15th-round pick from Eastern Florida State; lefty Orlando Razo, 16th round, Cal-Davis; righty Jamal Wade, 17th round, Maryland: and lefty Chris Castellanos, 33rd round, Stanford.
The Mariners signed 31 of their 40 drafted players, including 17 of their first 20 selections.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners