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Zych's return to mound anything but mundane

March 26, 2017

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Competing in his first Cactus League game after undergoing biceps replacement surgery in October, Tony Zych admitted his mind was swimming a bit on his first few pitches as he took the mound to replace starter Drew Smyly with a runner on first and no out in

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Competing in his first Cactus League game after undergoing biceps replacement surgery in October, Tony Zych admitted his mind was swimming a bit on his first few pitches as he took the mound to replace starter Drew Smyly with a runner on first and no out in the fifth in Sunday's 7-6 win over the Reds.
And then, wham! A hard line drive up the middle by Reds right fielder Scott Schebler smacked straight off his ankle, deflecting all the way beyond the third base line against Seattle's shifted infield.
Not exactly what you want from the first batter after working through six months of rehab on the arm, but Zych shook it off, stayed in the game and wound up allowing just that infield single along with a walk and sacrifice fly in his inning of work.
"I was kind of happy it happened," Zych said with a smile. "It woke me up a little bit. Reminded me that I'm really out there."
Zych could figure in the Mariners' bullpen plans soon, though he's not on schedule to be ready by Opening Day and manager Scott Servais acknowledged there is much work still to be done.
"He was a little rusty," Servais said. "I think his misses were bigger than he was hoping, but that's going to happen. The stuff looked fine, he just has to tighten it up a little and get the misses around the plate a little more. But it was kind of what I expected the first time out."
Zych's first live action, even if it was a Cactus League contest, had his adrenaline pumping.
"It was great," said the 26-year-old. "Obviously you can't replicate a real game in practice. It was good getting thrown in the fire right away. I had a runner on and it's not going to get any harder than that. Lock it down the next few times here and all is good.
"I'm just thrilled to be back. I'm ready to go. You can't beat that competition. They're the best in the game and it's fun."
Worth noting
Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz again sat out both the workout and game on Sunday as they continue recovering from a nasty head cold that has sidelined them since Thursday.
"Robbie came in and he looks a little better, but it's really taken the wind out of those guys' sails," Servais said. "I hope we get them back soon, but I don't have a timetable on that."
Steve Cishek threw 25 pitches in his second bullpen session of the spring as he works back from October hip surgery. Cishek said he felt great and threw some changeups after just firing fastballs in his first time on the mound Thursday.
• Left fielder Jarrod Dyson did some light running to test his sore hamstring and could get some game action in the next few days after playing just once in the past eight days.
"He might start getting some at-bats on the Minor League side where we can control how much he's running on the bases, but he's still seeing live pitching and making sure he's ready to go," Servais said.
• Closer Edwin Diaz, in his first appearance since returning from the World Baseball Classic, threw a scoreless eighth on Sunday with one single and two strikeouts. He's scheduled to pitch again Monday against the Padres.

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


@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.