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Mariners notes: Three starting pitchers move closer to return

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez expects to throw in a simulated game on Friday. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez expects to throw in a simulated game on Friday. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Could James Paxton, Felix Hernandez and even Hisashi Iwakuma return to help the Mariners in the final weeks of the season? How about all three?

The possibility of getting back at least one or two has taken a step forward in the past few days at Safeco Field.

A day after Hernandez (shoulder bursitis) stepped on a mound for the first time since going on the disabled list, both Paxton (pectoral strain) and Iwakuma (shoulder inflammation) threw bullpen sessions Saturday as part of their throwing programs to get them back into the rotation.

Hernandez confirmed that he will throw another bullpen session Monday, followed by a simulated game Friday.

Paxton threw 27 pitches in his first time back on the mound since going on the disabled list Aug. 11.

“Bullpen was good,” Paxton said. “I had no pain, no issues in the pec. It was a positive step in the right direction.”

Throwing without pain is the key.

“I felt some after the injury happened, but since I’ve been throwing, there hasn’t been as much,” Paxton said. “I haven’t had any setbacks. We’ve kept moving forward the entire time, and today was another step in the right direction.”

Paxton didn’t throw any breaking pitches in the session. He will throw another bullpen session Tuesday and a simulated game Saturday.

“My timing was a little bit off today, but that’s to be expected,” Paxton said. “We’ll continue to tighten things up and we’ll get closer to getting back in the game.”

Iwakuma threw a 40-pitch bullpen, and the reports were positive.

“From what I understand, it’s the best he’s felt since all this stuff was going on,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ll see how that progresses.”

Because the minor-league season ends Monday, the simulated games will serve as rehab assignments. There is a chance that Paxton and Hernandez could get back into the rotation on a limited pitch count if they perform well.

“We’ll piece it together like we always do,” Servais said. “We’re starting to run out of time. It’s got to happen pretty quick, or it’s not going to happen at all.”

The Mariners hope it happens for at least one of the three pitchers.

“All three of those guys are certainly talented and have the ability to help us out,” Servais said. “If there’s a chance and we’re playing meaningful games and we need them to step in, we’ll keep them going up until the last week.”

Beckham joins team

Another day, another roster move for the Mariners and general manager Jerry Dipoto. On Saturday morning, the team selected the minor-league contract of veteran middle infielder Gordon Beckham and added him to the 40-man roster. To make room, utility infielder Shawn O’Malley was designated for assignment.

Beckham, 30, hit .262 with 16 doubles, nine homers and 45 RBI in 83 games with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.

Beckham has plenty of big-league experience, playing in parts of eight seasons and over 900 games. He’s a career .240 hitter at the big-league level.

 “I don’t know how much he will play, but he allows you to maneuver the rest of the guys without the fear of running out of shortstops,” Servais said.

O’Malley, 29, has been riddled with injuries this season. He underwent an appendectomy just before the season began and then had shoulder surgery. He recently suffered a concussion in a game with the Rainiers and was placed on the seven-day disabled list.

Because of the injuries this season, he’s likely to clear waivers and be outrighted to Tacoma.

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