Ask Mariners long-time ace Felix Hernandez if he has a target date for returning to the mound from the disabled list, and his response is not unexpected.
"I’d like to be on the mound tomorrow," he said, "but they don’t want me."
Hernandez knows better but, fact is, there still is no hard target date for his return to active duty as he recovers from bursitis in his right shoulder.
Club officials loosely point to a mid-June return as a best-case scenario.
Hernandez took a major step in the right direction Saturday by throwing from a mound for the first time since his injury, which surfaced in an April 25 start at Detroit. Just 25 pitches. All straight — fastballs and changeups.
Most important: No pain.
"The shoulder feels good," he said. "I’ve got no problem with it at all. Pain-free."
Barring any day-after problems, Hernandez should throw another bullpen workout Monday or Tuesday at Colorado.
***Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma also threw his first bullpen workout since being diagnosed with shoulder inflammation after a May 3 start against the Los Angeles Angels.
"It's the first bullpen," he said, "so it’s hard to (evaluate). It wasn’t the best bullpen. But it is what it is. I have to make progress moving forward."
Iwakuma said his shoulder was "not perfect" but "felt okay."
He also could be working toward a mid-June return in a best-case scenario.
***Lefty James Paxton is ticketed to return Wednesday to the rotation after reporting no day-after problems following a rehab start Friday for Double-A Arkansas against Frisco (Rangers) in Little Rock.
Paxton threw 55 pitches in four innings and allowed two runs and five hits. He struck out five and walked none.
"I watched a little video (of the game)," manager Scott Servais said. "He looked clean. He looked healthy, like he wasn’t holding back on anything."
A strained forearm muscle forced Paxton to the disabled list after a May 2 start against the Angels. He was 3-0 at the time with a 1.43 ERA in six starts.
Slotting Paxton to face Colorado on May 31 at Safeco Field means right-hander Yovani Gallardo will get an extra day of rest before facing the Rockies on June 1.
***Outfielder Mitch Haniger now appears unlikely to begin a minor-league rehab assignment until late next week after suffering a minor setback in his recovery from a strained right oblique muscle suffered April 25 at Detroit.
"I think he tried to ramp it up a little too quick the last time," Servais said. "So no definite date yet for when he goes out. Once we get back off this road trip, then we’ll looking at when he can go out."
Haniger was batting .342 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 21 games when he suffered the injury.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners