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Nicasio progressing toward return to bullpen

Mariners reliever throws off mound in right knee rehab
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- Mariners reliever Juan Nicasio was on a dominant roll until swelling in his right knee led to troubles that landed him on the 10-day disabled last week. But the big right-hander threw well in a bullpen session prior to Friday's game and could return as early as next Tuesday when Seattle opens its next road trip in New York.

"I'm feeling good," Nicasio said after his first time throwing off the mound since he landed on the DL last Thursday. "I'm happy right now because my knee is fine. It's hard when you pitch with one knee. That's no good."

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SEATTLE -- Mariners reliever Juan Nicasio was on a dominant roll until swelling in his right knee led to troubles that landed him on the 10-day disabled last week. But the big right-hander threw well in a bullpen session prior to Friday's game and could return as early as next Tuesday when Seattle opens its next road trip in New York.

"I'm feeling good," Nicasio said after his first time throwing off the mound since he landed on the DL last Thursday. "I'm happy right now because my knee is fine. It's hard when you pitch with one knee. That's no good."

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Nicasio's return would be a welcome boost for a Mariners bullpen that has been without both he and fellow right-handed setup man Nick Vincent, who could be back later next week after dealing with a strained right groin.

Nicasio has a 5.34 ERA in 30 appearances, but that number doesn't tell the story of how important he can be when right. The 31-year-old allowed just three hits with no walks and 16 strikeouts in nine scoreless innings from mid-May until a June 6 blowup in Houston when his knee limited his fastball usage and the Astros put together four straight hits and four runs off him without recording an out.

On the following day, he acknowledged the knee was so swollen he couldn't push off it very well and an MRI revealed two tiny bone chips were causing a problem. Nicasio is hopeful that a cortisone injection and the 10 days of rest have provided the necessary relief.

"I didn't think he'd be down long," manager Scott Servais said. "We just needed to get that inflammation out and get him moving around. He's been exercising well and the arm feels really good. The downtime with pitchers at this time of year isn't a bad thing. It kind of regenerates them a little bit. Hopefully we can get that out of Juan and Nick as well."

Vincent has been sidelined by a strained right groin since May 27. He's scheduled to throw off the mound Saturday after being shut down midway through a similar attempt on Monday. Servais said he'll need to go out on a rehab assignment before rejoining the Mariners, since he's been out longer than Nicasio.

Video: MIN@SEA: Vincent leaves the game with apparent injury

Felix finding right formula?
This season has been a struggle for Felix Hernandez, who has a career-high ERA of 5.44 and WHIP of 1.38 through 15 starts. But Servais was encouraged by the 32-year-old's energetic approach and quality of pitches in a seven-inning, two-run outing against a strong Red Sox lineup in Thursday's 2-1 loss.

"We had a good conversation after the game, getting a full understanding of this is where he's at right now," Servais said. "He has to bring it. When he brings it, he gets pretty good results. He went through such a long stretch of his career where he was so talented that [on] days maybe he didn't bring his 'A' game, he was still able to go out and mow 'em down. And that's really not the case anymore.

"He's realizing that's what we need, that kind of effort out of him. He's not always going to get the great results. I get that. You can't control that. But you can control your effort and your preparation. I was very encouraged by what I saw."

Hernandez's next start will come Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, where he's gone 6-1 with a 1.41 ERA in nine games.

Video: BOS@SEA: Hernandez K's 6 over 7 innings of 2-run ball

Filia returned to Mariners
Outfielder Eric Filia, who was sent to the Red Sox on Tuesday to complete an earlier trade for lefty Roenis Elias, has been returned to the Mariners after failing a physical.

The Mariners instead will send cash to complete the original April 23 trade.

Filia was the Mariners' No. 11-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and the club is happy to have him back in its system. The 25-year-old hit .426 (23-for-54) with 10 runs, 14 RBIs and a home run in his first 13 games with Double-A Arkansas after sitting out the first 50 games of this year due to a suspension.

Filia was drafted by the Mariners out of UCLA in the 20th round in 2016 and posted a .326/.407/.434 line with five home runs and 59 RBIs last year in 128 games for Class A Advanced Modesto.

Mariners gear up for Father's Day
Scott Vanderflute and Kelly Bolender, two prostate cancer survivors and friends, will be part of the Father's Day pregame ceremony Sunday at Safeco Field as the Mariners and Red Sox help raise awareness for Major League Baseball's "Keep Dad in the Game" program.

Players from both teams will wear blue ribbons, wristbands and caps, while many will also use blue bats, gloves and cleats to support the fight against prostate cancer.

MLB Charities has pledged $50,000 to the Prostate Cancer Foundation for research, and fans can join the cause by pledging a donation for each home run hit through June 17 at HomeRunChallenge.org.

Vanderflute lives in Lakewood, Wash., and Bolender is from Gig Harbor. The two met in the 1980s when Bolender was a middle school shop teacher and Vanderflute ran a sporting goods store in Parkland, finding a common bond in their love for water skiing.

Coincidentally, both were diagnosed with prostate cancer within a few months of each other in 2016 and wound up being treated by Dr. Daniel Willis, a urologic surgeon at CHI Franciscan Health Tacoma.

CHI Franciscan offers screening for prostate cancer for men ages 55 and older and those at high risk, particularly African-American men, who are urged to talk about the risks and benefits with their urologist or family doctor.

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

Seattle Mariners, Juan Nicasio