ARLINGTON, Texas — Left-hander James Paxton believes he’s ready to depart on a rehab assignment after pitching two innings in a simulated game Wednesday as the latest test in his recovery from an injured finger.
"It felt great," he said. "No pain on any pitches. I just wanted to get the ball down. Execute a few pitches and have no pain at all. Which is what I had. That was great."
Paxton threw 30 pitches — two 15-pitch simulated innings with a break in-between. Coaches Chris Woodward and Andy Van Slyke served as hitters — well, they stood in the batter’s box. There were no balls put in play.
"He could go into the game with that," pitching coach Rick Waits said. "I want him to have pitches that can get people out. It’s not just a matter of throwing hard and feeling good. Today, I saw a lot of really good pitches."
Paxton suffered a strained tendon in his middle finger in the fifth inning of his start on May 28 against Cleveland. He said it’s been a couple of weeks now" since he felt any discomfort.
"We’ll see how I feel when I come in (Wednesday)," Paxton said, "but after today, personally I feel I’m ready to go for a rehab start. We’ll see what these guys want me to do."
Waits said Paxton is likely to throw a standard between-starts bullpen Thursday. Barring setbacks, Paxton could then head to the minor leagues, presumably Triple-A Tacoma, to be a rehab assignment.
That could position Paxton to return to the big-league rotation by the second week in September. That would coincide with an anticipated need for replacements in the rotation.
Taijuan Walker and Mike Montgomery are each closing in on club targets for their maximum number of innings.
Rookie closer Carson Smith’s recent troubles, manager Lloyd McClendon contends, are simply the growing pains that come with being a rookie closer.
"This is one of the things that I was worried about," McClendon said, "when everybody was up in arms to get (Fernando) Rodney out of there and to make Smith the closer.
"When you make that move, you don’t go back. You can’t continue to flip and flop. Now there are some growing pains to go with it. We’ve got to live with it."
Before Tuesday, Smith had allowed eight runs on 12 hits and nine walks over 8 2/3 innings in 10 appearances since July 25. He has three losses and two blown saves in that span.
"He’ll be better as a result," McClendon said, "but the process has sped up quite a bit. When you blow (a save), the toughest part is the mental part. The physical part is just a natural maturation process.
"He’ll get bigger and stronger, but the mental part can be tough. You lose games you’re supposed to win, and the you have to get back out there the next day."
The latest next day came Tuesday, when Smith closed out a 3-2 victory for Hisashi Iwakuma by working a one-two-three ninth inning.
The Mariners expect to get the medical reports Wednesday on reliever Charlie Furbush, who was reexamined this week because of lingering soreness in his biceps.
Club officials had hoped Furbush would be ready for a rehab assignment after a bullpen workout Saturday in Boston. Instead, he was sent back to Seattle for further tests.
Furbush hasn’t pitched since July 7, and his continuing absence robs a struggling bullpen of what had been its top lefty weapon. Furbush was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 33 games prior to his injury.
*David Rollins, another lefty, is trying avoid a trip to the disabled list because of an unspecified arm problem. He has pitched just twice since July 30.
The decision is complicated because of Rollins’ status as a Rule 5 player, which could continue into next year if he spends time on the disabled list.
HULTZEN SHUT DOWN
Left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen’s return from major shoulder is officially on hold again. General manager Jack Zduriencik said Hultzen won’t throw again until spring training.
Hultzen, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, experienced shoulder fatigue after making three May starts at Double-A Jackson after missing all of last season because of surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff.
"It doesn’t make sense to try to start him up again," Zduriencik said. "We’ve had him down, up, down. Let’s sit through the winter. Let him continue his off-season program and get ready for spring training."
Since Hultzen, 25, will be out of options next season, that means he can’t be sent back to the minors unless he clears waivers.
SURGERY FOR FLORES
Triple-A Tacoma outfielder Ramon Flores is scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday in Seattle to repair a compound fracture in his right ankle.
Flores, 25, suffered the injury Aug. 14 in a spill on the warning track at Cheney Stadium. He was batting .423 in 14 games since the Mariners acquired him in a July 30 trade from the New York Yankees.
"He was just tearing it up in Triple-A," Zduriencik said. "He was going to get an opportunity here at some point sooner or later. He was going to get that opportunity clearly by Sept. 1, if not sooner."
No club knows heartbreak like the Mariners.
Their 4-3 loss on Monday was their ninth walk-off loss of the season, which leads the American League and is tied with Cincinnati for the major-league lead.
It was also their 21st defeat in their opponent’s last at-bat, which leads the majors.
This is nothing new.
The Mariners have 64 walk-off losses since the start of the 2010 season. Cincinnati ranks second with 59 in that span. As a point of comparison, the Mariners have 25 walk-off victories since 2010.
Of those 64 walk-off losses, 27 came against American League West opponents: 13 by the Angels, eight by the Athletics, four by the Rangers; and two by the Astros.
Monday’s walk-off loss was unusual in this respect: It was the first time since Aug. 30, 2007 that the Mariners suffered a walk-off loss on a bases-loaded walk.
The Rangers started their winning rally Monday with two bunt singles in the ninth inning against Fernando Rodney, but ESPN research shows that’s a rarity.
Ryan Strausborger’s leadoff single was the first bunt for a base-hit against Rodney since Aug. 9, 2010, when Gregor Blanco did it for Kansas City when Rodney was pitching for the Los Angeles Angels.
Rodney made 327 appearances covering 311 1/3 innings between the bunt singles by Blanco and Strausborger.
Short-A Everett outfielder Braden Bishop, 21, is 15-for-30 in his last seven games after going 2-for-4 in Monday’s 5-0 victory over Spokane (Rangers).
Bishop, a former Washington standout, was the Mariners’ third-round pick in the June draft. He is batting .310 overall with 30 runs and 14 RBIs in 47 games.
Everett shortstop Drew Jackson, after his hitting streak ended Sunday at 20 games, bounced by Monday by going 2-for-4 and raising his average to .390. Jackson, 22, was the club’s fifth-round pick in the June draft.
It was 14 years ago — Aug. 19, 2001 — that Mike Cameron tied a franchise record and set a career high by driving in eight runs in a 10-2 victory over the Yankees in New York.
Cameron went 4-for-4 with two homers, including a grand slam.
Alvin Davis had eight RBIs on May 9, 1986 in a 13-3 victory over Toronto at the Kingdome. Mike Blowers matched that with eight RBIs on May 24, 1995 in a 15-6 victory over Boston at the Kingdome.
With an RBI double in the first inning, Nelson Cruz extended his career-best streak of reaching base to 29 games. That is also the longest streak this season in the American League…Seth Smith hit his 10th homer and became the sixth Mariner this season to reach double figures. The others are Nelson Cruz (36), Kyle Seager (17), Robinson Cano (13), Logan Morrison (12) and Mike Zunino (11)…Hisashi Iwakuma won his 150th professional game. He was 107-69 over 11 seasons in Japan and now 43-22 over four seasons with the Mariners.
The Mariners and Rangers conclude their three-game series at 11:05 a.m. (PDT) Wednesday at Globe Life Park. Left-hander Mike Montgomery (4-5, 4.14) will face Texas lefty Derek Holland (0-1, 9.00).
Montgomery is 0-3 with a 7.99 ERA in his last seven starts. Holland must be activated from the disabled list after missing more than four months because of a shoulder injury.
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.