PEORIA, Ariz. -- Steve Cishek's initial hope of being recovered from hip surgery in time to start the regular season with the Mariners has long since given way to a slower reality, but the veteran right-hander took comfort in his steady progression after throwing another strong bullpen session on Wednesday.Cishek
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Steve Cishek's initial hope of being recovered from hip surgery in time to start the regular season with the Mariners has long since given way to a slower reality, but the veteran right-hander took comfort in his steady progression after throwing another strong bullpen session on Wednesday.
Cishek fired 30 pitches in his third mound session in the past week, this time mixing in some sliders as he continues expanding his rehab program toward what now looks like a possible return in late April or May.
The 30-year-old Massachusetts native will add a few more pitches in his next bullpen on Saturday and hopes to advance to facing live hitters in a batting practice situation next week.
But even the best-case scenario requires eventually pitching in a half dozen or so Minor League outings once he's game ready, and that means opening the year on the disabled list and staying behind in Arizona when the team heads to Houston on Saturday night in preparation for Monday's season opener.
"It's going to be really hard," Cishek said. "I want to be there with the team, especially Opening Day, both away and at Safeco [Field]. My goal originally when I had surgery was to be ready by Opening Day, then I realized that wasn't possible.
"My mind says one thing, but my body says, 'That's not happening.' So I just had to be patient and it kind of humbled me a little bit. I'm just going at it every day and seeing how I feel."
The good thing for Cishek is his arm hasn't had any problems. The bad news is microfracture hip surgery in October has required him to rebuild all the strength in that left leg after spending much of the offseason on crutches.
"I need my legs to pitch," he said. "That's the biggest part of my game. As long as I keep getting stronger, it'll take pressure off my arm and I can be more effective out there when it comes game time. That's the main goal, to keep getting stronger and the bullpens will come. The stuff will start coming back. I just have to trust it."
Cishek was 4-6 with 25 saves and a 2.81 ERA in 62 appearances last year and figures to eventually be the right-handed setup man to closer Edwin Diaz if he can return to full strength in the coming months.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.