SEATTLE -- In a most-welcome sight for the Mariners, Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker took part in a spirited session of catch in the Safeco Field outfield several hours before Saturday night's game against the Cardinals, while Wade Miley did some running and his normal day-after routine following a strong
SEATTLE -- In a most-welcome sight for the Mariners, Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker took part in a spirited session of catch in the Safeco Field outfield several hours before Saturday night's game against the Cardinals, while Wade Miley did some running and his normal day-after routine following a strong rehab start Friday at Short-A Everett.
That trio of starters is critical to the Mariners' hopes of staying in contention for a postseason berth this season and Miley and Walker are on schedule to rejoin the rotation next week, with Miley slated to come off the 15-day disabled list to face the Pirates on Wednesday and Walker following on Thursday against the Orioles after having his last start pushed back due to tendinitis in the arch of his right foot.
Hernandez's return is more tenuous as he's been sidelined for nearly four weeks now with a strained right calf. The 30-year-old ace is close to taking the mound for a couple bullpen sessions, after which he'd throw a simulated game or Minor League rehab stint before any decision on his return.
The safe course would be to have Hernandez aiming to return after the All-Star break in mid-July, but Hernandez has different ideas.
"He's starting to map out his plan, which is always a good thing," manager Scott Servais said. "He's as aggressive as he can be with that. He thinks he can probably pitch tomorrow. We want to make sure when he comes back we have him for the remainder of the season, so we still have to build up some arm strength. But it wasn't an arm issue, so we'll probably be a little aggressive in getting him going as quick as we can."
Servais was encouraged by how well Hernandez was throwing on Saturday, a point reinforced by his catching partner.
"He looked good," said Walker. "Really good. He's got a fresh arm."
Walker was feeling a little extra bounce in his own step as well, which is critical as the 23-year-old right-hander works through the right foot issue that has caused him to come out early in both his last two starts and then have Friday's outing skipped completely with Wade LeBlanc filling in.
Walker will throw a bullpen session prior to Sunday's game, when he'll push off the rubber to get a better sense of how the foot feels. But he said an MRI test that revealed no structural damage has eased his mind and the extra rest seems to have helped.
"You can definitely test it in the bullpen, but I guess we won't really know until the game," he said. "But it feels really good right now, especially knowing nothing is structurally wrong. It makes me feel I can go out there with confidence and just pitch."
Miley threw 55 pitches in four hitless innings at Everett on Friday and says he's 100 percent full go after missing two starts with shoulder soreness.
Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush also is progressing in his much-longer rehab process as he returns from a slight rotator cuff tear that has sidelined him since last July. Furbush threw 30 pitches off the bullpen mound on Friday and will throw another session Tuesday.
If all goes well, Furbush said he'll gear up again with a couple live batting practice rounds and then trainers will have a clearer picture of whether he's ready to start a Minor League rehab stint next month.
"I'm feeling great and looking forward to getting this thing going," Furbush said. "I can't wait to get back in the 'pen and help bring the reinforcements."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011.
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