Mariners’ Paxton gets rehab start in Tacoma

ARLINGTON, Texas — Class AAA Tacoma is in line, if all goes as planned, to get a pair of major-league upgrades— albeit likely short-term upgrades— by the end of the weekend.

Left-handed starter James Paxton is slotted to start Sunday for the Rainiers against El Paso at Cheney Stadium unless problems surface during or after a bullpen workout prior to today’s game against Houston at Safeco Field.

Outfielder/DH Logan Morrison could join the Rainiers as soon as Friday if he shows sufficient progress in running drills in his recovery from a strained right hamstring suffered prior to the April 14 game in Texas.

Manager Lloyd McClendon revealed the tentative plans for both players before Wednesday’s game against Texas at Globe Life Park.

“(Morrison) will probably start off DHing,” McClendon said, “but he’ll play in the field as well.”

Right-hander Taijuan Walker could join Paxton and Morrison in Tacoma by the end of next week. He is scheduled for one more simulated game before departing on a minor-league rehab assignment.

Such assignments can last 30 days for pitchers and 20 days for non-pitchers. Thereafter, the player must be recalled to active duty, activated and optioned to the minors or simply recalled from the assignment to spend further time on the disabled list.

Morrison is not only testing his hamstring, but he needs to get his timing back at the plate.

“Facing Paxton and Walker is not really the best way,” he said after taking swings Tuesday against both pitchers in simulated games. “It felt OK. I didn’t feel like I was too far off.”

Paxton is recovering from a strained left back muscle that forced his removal from the April 8 game against the Angels at Safeco Field. He won his two starts while allowing just three runs in 12 innings prior to his injury.

“I felt the ball was coming out better (in Tuesday’s 53-pitch simulated game),” Paxton said. “My changeup was good. I was hitting my spots a little better with my stuff, so I feel it’s coming along pretty well.”

Walker reports no resurgence of the shoulder soreness that first surfaced in February and recurred in mid-April during a previous rehab assignment.

Nothing,” he said. “Everything feels good.”

Interest in Maxwell

With Corey Hart expected to miss four-to-six weeks, don’t be surprised if the Mariners take a hard look at outfielder Justin Maxwell if he clears waivers after being designated for assignment last week by the Royals.

Hart was diagnosed Monday with a grade-2 strain in his left hamstring. His absence deprives the Mariners of one of their top right-handed bats in a lefty-heavy lineup.

The Mariners inquired about Maxwell, a right-handed hitter, but talks went nowhere. The Royals are believed to have asked for relievers Danny Farquhar or Dominic Leone in return.

Maxwell, 30, played sparingly this season and has just four hits in 29 at-bats, but he had a .264/.351/.505 slash last season for the Royals in 35 games after arriving from Houston.

The Mariners seem unlikely to make a waiver claim, which would obligate them to the balance of Maxwell’s $1.325 million salary. If Maxwell clears waivers, and becomes a free agent, his new team would only pay a pro-rated share of the $500,000 minimum salary.

Closing in

The Mariners are close to an agreement with outfielder Brayan Hernandez, a 16-year-old from Venezuela, as a likely centerpiece to their international signing efforts. No deal can be official prior to the July 2 start of the international signing period.

The Mariners were previously identified by Baseball America’s Ben Badler as the “likely destination” for Hernandez, who is 6 feet 1 and 170 pounds. Badler also speculated the bonus could reach $2 million. That would be more than half of the Mariners’ allotted international pool total of $3,440,700.

Badler’s scouting report on Hernandez: “makes loud contact already with fringe-average raw power, showing the ability to hit fastballs and breaking pitches … “Hernandez’s arm is his weakest tool, which some believe may be related to a physical issue, but he has the outfield instincts and awareness for scouts highest on him to project him as a center fielder.”

Short hops

James Jones’ 11-game hitting streak is the longest by a Mariners rookie since Mike Carp’s 20-game run in 2011. … Robinson Cano has eight homers in 31 career starts as a designated hitter. … Cano’s homer snapped a 24-game drought, which marked the fourth-longest of his career. His only other home also came at Texas — in an 8-6 loss on April 17. … Chris Young has one strikeouts over 131/3 innings in his last two starts. … Scott Bradley and

Mike Moriarty will serve as the Mariners’ draft reps at Studio 42 on June 5 for the first day of the draft in Secaucus, N.J. Bradley played for the Mariners from 1986-91. Moriarty serves as a scout for the Northeast.

Looking back

It was 33 years ago today— May 22, 1981— that the Mariners turned a triple play for the first time in franchise history. It occurred in the eighth inning of a 6-2 loss to Texas at the Kingdome.

The Rangers had runners at first and second against Jerry Don Gleaton when Mario Mendoza hit a line drive to shortstop Rick Auerbach, who stepped on second for a force and threw to first for the triple play.

That’s the same Mario Mendoza, by the way, of the Mendoza Line fame. The Mendoza Line is a .200 batting average.

The Mariners have turned 10 triple plays in franchise history but none since Aug. 9, 2010 against Oakland at Safeco Field. They have also hit into nine, but none since Sept. 2, 2006 at Tampa Bay.

On tap

The Mariners begin their longest homestand of the year when they open a four-game series against Houston at 7:10 p.m. today at Safeco Field. Left-hander Roenis Elias (3-3 with a 3.88 ERA) will start against Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart (3-3 and 3.41). Root Sports will carry the game.

The Mariners play four games against the Astros, four against the Los Angeles Angels and three against Detroit in an 11-game homestand through June 1.

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