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Mariners’ Aardsma nearer return

By Kirby Arnold Everett Herald

SEATTLE – Several hours before the Mariners’ game Saturday night against the Indians, a couple of key relief pitchers made important strides back from injury.

In the Safeco Field bullpen, closer David Aardsma threw 41 pitches in what continues to be a successful comeback from offseason surgery on his left hip.

Saturday morning at the Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz., Shawn Kelley threw off the top of a mound for the first time since he had elbow surgery last August.

Kelley is on the 60-day disabled list and isn’t eligible to be activated until May 30, but Aardsma could be back before the end of April.

Aardsma said he will throw a simulated game on Tuesday, followed by another simulated game or a minor league rehab assignment depending on how he feels and what the team decides.

“If I can get a good two (minor league) outings, and then back-to-back outings, at that point I would feel really comfortable,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, if they all feel good.”

Aardsma said he feels fine, although the hip still is on his mind when he pitches.

“But it’s different now,” he said. “I feel a lot freer, a lot looser. I’m not thinking about if I’m going to feel something funny with this pitch, am I going to hurt it? It’s still a work in progress. It’s not perfect, but it’s really close.”

Saturday’s session in Arizona was a milestone for Kelley because he pitched from atop a mound for the first time. The catcher set up atop home plate and Kelley said he took it easy.

“It was a short bullpen, nice and easy, all fastballs, and I feel really good,” Kelley said by phone.

He said his next bullpen Monday will be at full distance and, for the first time, full intensity.

“It’ll still be all fastballs but I’ll be letting it go,” Kelley said.

Because he won’t be eligible to come off the DL until May 30, there’s no need for Kelley to rush his comeback even though he has progressed without problem.

“Even if I felt like I was ready early I can’t rush it,” he said. “I want to keep feeling this way. Probably the best thing is to use that extra week or two to make sure that I am ready.”

Wilson again on bench

Adam Kennedy started a second straight game at second base Saturday while Jack Wilson remained on the bench, relegated to pregame work and regaining the faith of manager Eric Wedge.

On Wednesday, Wilson pulled himself from the game against the Rangers after he’d made two errors in the second inning. Wedge called that move “unspeakable” on Friday.

“Ultimately, we’ll continue to work through it and when I feel like we’re to the point we can count on him, then he’ll get back in there,” Wedge said.

Wilson worked at second base throughout batting practice and, after other infielders had finished their work, remained on the field talking at length with bench coach Robby Thompson.

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