PEORIA, Ariz. -- Playing catch may not seem like a huge deal for most Major League pitchers, but Mariners reliever Steve Cishek took great joy in an easy 25-toss session with one of the team's trainers on a side field behind the rest of his teammates Tuesday.
After undergoing microfracture hip surgery in October, this was Cishek's first chance to throw, and he began his Spring Training in an admitted small step in a recovery process he hopes gets him back on the mound in the opening months of the regular season.
"Maybe not for the average person, but it was an exciting day for me," Cishek said.
The lanky right-hander pitched the final two months of 2016 with a sore hip, spending 15 days on the disabled list before returning to post a 1.10 ERA in his final 18 appearances. But when doctors went in to repair what was believed to be a slight labrum tear, they found enough damage to require the more extensive microfracture procedure.
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After spending two months on crutches, Cishek is glad to at least be donning a uniform and progressing toward mound work.
"The first few throws were a bit tentative, but once they told me to just forget about it and pretend nothing happened, it made it a little easier," he said. "It felt pretty good, surprisingly. There's some discomfort, but the joint has to get used to that motion again. I was surprised how good it actually felt."
Cishek was a big part of Seattle's bullpen last year, posting a 2.81 ERA with a 1.016 WHIP in 62 outings. He had 25 saves before being displaced at closer by rookie Edwin Diaz just before going on the DL.
Cishek now admits the hip was an issue, but he grinded out the season, and he's intent on coming back and helping the bullpen in a setup role to Diaz as soon as possible.
Cishek said the short-term plan is to play catch every other day and see how his hip reacts, with the hope of extending his sessions to longer toss before eventually taking the mound. At this point, he just needs to get his legs back under him and take it from there.
"My arm felt great," he said. "I felt like I was just flicking the ball, and it was coming out with some life behind it. I was excited."