By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
PEORIA, Ariz. — For most of spring training, the injury news around the Seattle Mariners was non-existent.
While the Rangers had Elvis Andrus missing games with a sore arm caused by a new tattoo, and then lost starter Martin Perez, who broke an arm in a game against Seattle, the Mariners have been mostly healthy.
That changed a little on Monday with the announcement that prized pitching prospect Danny Hultzen was scratched from his scheduled pitching appearance because of injury.
Officially, Hultzen suffered a mild hip flexor strain during conditioning drills a few days ago.
“It wasn’t like a sudden thing, which I guess is good, because nothing serious happened,” he 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.”
There isn’t much for Hultzen to worry about if he does what the Mariners medical staff tells him to do.
“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 Hultzen’s return. But the hope is the left-hander will be able to return to action in about a week. Hultzen will still be able to play catch during that time, but won’t throw off the mound.
“After the next three or four days, we’ll have a better idea,” Griffin said.
While the injury isn’t serious, had Hultzen tried to hide it or if it were not properly treated, 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 younger 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, then knock it out of the way. Something like this, doing something preventative 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 making the starting rotation? Perhaps, but because spring training is a week longer this season, 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 hasn’t allowed a run and allowed just one hit with six strikeouts.
Realistically, Hultzen and fellow promising prospects Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Brandon Maurer, are all kind of long shots at making the rotation. Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Jon Garland and perhaps even Jeremy Bonderman have the edge because of their major league experience.
Although all four pitching prospects are exceptionally talented, only Hultzen has pitched above Class AA, and he struggled with the Rainiers last season. While fans would love to see the youngsters pitching in a Mariners uniform, the organization is in no hurry to rush them to the major league level when it could do more harm than good.