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Felix returns to mound work in rehab

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez threw about 25 pitches in the bullpen prior to Tuesday night's game against the Pirates, his first time throwing off a mound since going on the 15-day disabled list four weeks ago with a strained right calf.

Manager Scott Servais said Hernandez looked strong and didn't rule out the 30-year-old right-hander returning for a start prior to the All-Star break, which begins on July 11.

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SEATTLE -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez threw about 25 pitches in the bullpen prior to Tuesday night's game against the Pirates, his first time throwing off a mound since going on the 15-day disabled list four weeks ago with a strained right calf.

Manager Scott Servais said Hernandez looked strong and didn't rule out the 30-year-old right-hander returning for a start prior to the All-Star break, which begins on July 11.

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"It was really encouraging to see him on the mound, throwing down the slope," Servais said. "He felt great, no issues. We'll keep moving forward and he'll probably throw another bullpen later this week."

Servais expects Hernandez will need one or two Minor League rehab starts before a decision is made on his return.

"If you let him go, he'd pitch on Friday. We can't quite go there," Servais said. "We need to build him back up a little bit. His arm looks great. Obviously he's fresh. We were just concerned with the leg, the lower half and how that was working on the mound. But no reservations at all. He'll sit down with [pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and trainer Rick Griffin] and kind of map out where we go from here. It was good. A very welcome sight."

There has been considerable speculation that Hernandez would be targeted to return after the All-Star break in mid-July.

"A lot of people are talking about that. I'm not," Servais said. "If there's a way to get him out there and possibly get him a start before the break, I'd be all in favor of it. But it's going to depend on Rick and where Felix is at and getting him built up and comfortable to fire him out there. I don't want to put him out there for 50-60 pitches. He has to be able to go longer than that."

Hernandez is 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 10 starts, but he hasn't been able to pitch since hurting his leg while stretching prior to a game on May 31. This is the longest DL stint in Hernandez's 12-year career.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez