Paxton closest, Walker not far behind

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comMay 21, 2014 

ARLINGTON, Texas — The next step for Seattle Mariners left-hander James Paxton, after throwing 53 pitches Tuesday in a simulated game, is a minor league rehab assignment to test his recovery from a strained back muscle.

“I’m ready for it,” said Paxton, who left an April 8 start against the Angels because of a strained left latissimus dorsi muscle. “I feel like I’m ready to get into some games.

“I was letting a few more go today. It’s time to step it up and get back into that game mode.”

Right-hander Taijuan Walker appears one step behind Paxton after reporting no problems in his 35-pitch simulated game. Plans call for Walker to pitch one more simulated game before heading out on a rehab assignment.

“Threw everything,” he said. “Everything felt good. My mechanics felt good. It felt like everything was in sync. My balance point was good.

“One of the biggest things I’ve been working on is finishing my pitches to keep less stress off my arm. I think I did that today.”

Walker believes a failure to follow through properly on pitches was a major cause in the shoulder soreness that first surfaced in February.

“I was standing tall,” he said. “So I put that in my throwing program. Everything I do, I finish it and over-exaggerate it, so that when I’m on the mound, I’ll feel that finish.”

FRANKLIN ARRIVES

Infielder Nick Franklin, as expected, joined the Mariners prior to Tuesday’s game after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to replace injured designated hitter Corey Hart on the roster.

Hart was examined Monday in Seattle by the club’s medical director, Dr. Edward Khalfayan – and the news wasn’t good. He has a grade-2 strain in his left hamstring.

“My understanding is he’s out four-to-six weeks,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’ve got to find (a DH). We don’t have one. Franklin is DH’ing tonight. I think we’d all agree he’s not a typical DH.”

Franklin contributed two singles and sacrifice fly in Tuesday’s 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.

The Mariners were close to recalling Franklin last week in hopes of finding a spark for a struggling attack. They held off when Franklin experienced some back soreness.

“About a week ago in (Las) Vegas,” Franklin said, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and had a little stiff neck and a stiff back. Got some treatment, and I’m ready to roll. No problems.”

Franklin, 23, was 2-for-16 over seven games in a previous promotion but returns after batting .376 for the Rainiers with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 30 games.

“I’d imagine he’ll play some outfield,” McClendon said. “He’ll play some shortstop. He’ll DH. If Robby (Cano) DH’s, he might play second.”

Hart was batting .209 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 37 games prior to his injury.

MORRISON UPDATE

The Mariners’ DH problems are exacerbated because Logan Morrison continues to make slow progress in his recovery from a strained right hamstring suffered more than five weeks ago.

Morrison took part in the simulated games against Paxton and Walker but remained less than 100 percent while running the bases. Club officials caution he must show more improvement in running drills before he is ready for game competition.

“It’s just (a matter) of getting back at it,” he said, “and trying to remember – it’s weird to say this – how to run. You just kind of feel uncoordinated when you haven’t done it in a while.

“It’s a little different when you go from the elliptical and then try to sprint outside. I’m trying to get the feel back.”

COFFEY SIGNED

The Mariners are about to take another chance on a recovering Tommy John patient after reaching agreement with veteran reliever Todd Coffey on a minor league deal.

Coffey, 33, missed all of last season but recently held a workout for scouts. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported Coffey’s fastball hit 91-92 mph with a slider between 82 and 84 mph.

Plans call for Coffey, who is recovering from his second reconstructive elbow surgery, to head to Arizona to undergo a physical either Wednesday night for Thursday morning.

Coffey is 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds. He is 25-18 with a 4.10 ERA in 461 games in eight years with four clubs.

LOOKING BACK

It was a year ago Wednesday – May 21, 2013 – that Angels outfielder Mike Trout became the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle in a 12-0 romp over the Mariners at Angel Stadium.

Trout went 4-for-5 and his cycle came at an age of 21 years, 287 days. It was sixth time an opponent had hit for the cycle against the Mariners.

SHORT HOPS

James Jones’ bunt single in the third inning Tuesday gave him at least one hit in each of his first 11 career starts, passing Edgar Martinez for the club record. Jones also has a 10-game hitting streak overall. No Mariners rookie had had a 10-game streak since Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp in 2011. … Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen has a scoreless streak of 122/3 innings, the longest scoreless streak by an American League reliever this season. … Kyle Seager went 3-for-5 and has multiple hits in five of eight games this season against the Rangers. He is batting .364 (12-for-33) against Texas and .200 (23-for-115) against everyone else … Tuesday began a stretch of 16 games in 16 days for the Mariners.

ON TAP

The Mariners conclude their two-game stay in Texas at 11:10 a.m. Wednesday at Globe Life Park. Right-hander Chris Young (3-1, 3.22 ERA) will face Texas righty Nick Tepesch (0-0, 1.69). Root Sports will carry the game.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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