LeBlanc (oblique) optimistic after rehab progress

Mariners lefty projects he could return in about 4 weeks

April 17th, 2019

SEATTLE – has spent much of his 11 years in the Majors waiting for this kind of regular starting opportunity, so he’s not about to let a little thing like a strained oblique muscle slow him for too long.

The 34-year-old southpaw was diagnosed with a Grade 2 oblique strain in his right side after being pulled from his start in the fifth inning last Friday against the Astros, with an estimate that he’d miss at least four to six weeks.

But LeBlanc says he’s progressing with the early rehab work fairly quickly and is confidently optimistic that he’ll be able to return ahead of schedule, more in line with a less severe Grade 1 strain.

“It’s not that bad. That MRI is a liar,” he said with a smile. “You can never trust those things. If it shows a [Grade] 2 but my body is telling me it feels more like a 1, then it’s a 1 in my head. I’m going to approach it like a 1.

“I’m not going to rush back by any means, but I’m going to move forward as my body allows. So far it’s been good. There’s been improvement every day. There’s not a whole lot of movement that I feel restricted on, so I’ll just keep moving forward.”

Though he’s not ready to test his throwing motion, LeBlanc has already begun conditioning on the bike and doing some core and shoulder work. Strength tests at a doctor’s visit on Monday showed considerable progress after just four days of rest.

“I think I’ll definitely be throwing within a couple weeks,” he said. “But I don’t get paid to make those decisions. I get paid to throw a ball when they tell me to. In my head, I’ll be back within four weeks.”

Teammate Shawn Armstrong missed about four weeks with a Grade 1 oblique strain this spring and is just returning now, so LeBlanc’s timeline isn’t out of the question.

“As he gets moving down the road here toward recovery, he’s optimistic it’s maybe not going to be as long as they say,” manager Scott Servais said. “Most players are, but he’s feeling OK. He’s going to be a ways away yet, but he’s optimistic that he could be back a little sooner.”

LeBlanc’s next turn in the rotation would have been in Wednesday’s 3:40 p.m. PT series finale against the Indians, but rookie Erik Swanson will take his place instead in his MLB starting debut.

Bautista getting close to rehab stint

Rookie right-hander , the Mariners’ No. 27-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, is about a week from potentially beginning a Minor League rehab assignment as he returns from a strained right pectoral muscle.

Bautista was having a strong spring until he pulled the muscle in a Cactus League game on March 10.

“We’re starting to push that a long a little quicker with him,” Servais said. “Another week or so he might be out on a rehab assignment. He’d need more than just one or two outings, maybe three and get an opportunity to go back to back and things like that before he joins us. He’s been out for a while, so it’ll take a little bit longer.”

If all goes well, that would put Bautista on track for a potential return in mid- to late-May. The 23-year-old was one of five players acquired from the Mets in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade.