PEORIA, Ariz. — For most of spring training, the Seattle Mariners’ injury news has been nonexistent.
By comparison, the Texas Rangers had shortstop Elvis Andrus miss games with soreness because of a freshly tattooed arm, then lost starter Martin Perez to a broken forearm suffered when he was hit by a batted ball in a game against Seattle.
That changed Monday with the announcement that Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, was scratched from his scheduled pitching appearance that day because of injury.
Officially, Hultzen suffered a mild hip flexor strain during conditioning drills a few days ago.
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“It wasn’t like a sudden thing, which I guess is good, because nothing serious happened,” Hultzen said “We were running and after it got kind of sore. The next day it was really sore.”
Minor is the key word in the diagnosis. All involved don’t consider it to be serious.
“I’m on the shelf for a couple of days, and back at it in another couple of days,” Hultzen said. “It’s not a big deal. I’m not worried about it.”
Neither is manager Eric Wedge.
“It’s early enough where I think we’re OK,” Wedge said. “We’ll see how he responds from day to day – better for it to happen now than later in camp. Obviously, he’s been very impressive in camp early on. We’ll give him some time here this week and see how he recovers.”
If he follows the instructions of the medical staff, there isn’t much for him to worry about.
“It’s just mild,” Mariners head athletic trainer Rick Griffin said. “We are just being overly cautious. It’s on his right leg which is a good thing. If it was on his left leg, he’d have to be able to push off. But because it’s on his right leg it should make the recovery a little quicker.”
The Mariners won’t give an exact timetable for his return. But they hope Hultzen will be able to return to action in about a week. Hultzen will still be able to play catch, but won’t throw off a mound.
“After the next three or four days, we’ll have a better idea,” Griffin said.
While the injury isn’t considered serious, had Hultzen tried to hide it, or if it didn’t get proper treatment, it could have gotten much worse.
“With younger players, sometimes they think it’s OK to not come in and get treated and all of the sudden they realize they have to pitch in a game,” Griffin said. “We have to be smart sometimes for them and just let them know the best thing is to get this quieted down.”
Hultzen wasn’t one of those foolish young players. As much as he wants to make the team, he didn’t try to be a hero.
“I did that a little bit in college,” he said. “There was a time where my arm was a little sore and then it got really sore. I learned that it’s obviously a lot dumber just to go through it than knock it out of the way. Something like this, doing something (preventive) is a lot easier than risk turning it into a serious injury. In the long run, this is the smart decision.”
Does this hinder Hultzen’s chances to make the starting rotation this season? Perhaps, but because spring training is a week longer this year, he may still have a chance to make a push for a spot.
He has posted solid numbers this spring. In two appearances – a total of three innings pitched – he has pitched shutout ball on one hit with six strikeouts.
Realistically, Hultzen and fellow promising prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer — are all longshots to join the 2013 starting rotation. Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Jon Garland and perhaps even Jeremy Bonderman have an edge because of their major league experience.
Although all four pitching prospects are exceptionally talented, only Hultzen has pitched above Double-A, and he struggled with the Rainiers last season. While fans would love to see the youngsters pitching in a Mariners uniform in 2013, the organization is in no hurry to rush them to the major league level when it could do more harm than good.