By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Injured left-handed pitcher James Paxton threw for the first time — he played catch — in his recovery from a strained back muscle he suffered in an April 8 victory over the Angels.
It wasn’t much: Just five minutes at a distance of 45 feet, but Paxton reported nothing but positives.
“I got to my regular arm slot,” he said. “No pain. I felt strong throwing the ball today. We’ll see how I feel (today), and how I respond. If all feels good, I’ll throw again (today).”
Club officials are hesitant to discuss a recovery timetable, but Paxton’s injury — a strained latissimus dorsi muscle — typically requires six-to-eight weeks before a pitcher returns to active duty.
Paxton, 25, won his first two starts before the injury forced him to the disabled list. The Mariners were 5-2 after he beat the Angels in that April 8 game. Going into Friday’s game, they were 3-11 since Paxton went down.
Nine Mariners are on this year’s ballot, which is not surprising. The ballot typically includes the starters for all teams. One note: Corey Hart is on the ballot as an outfielder and Logan Morrison is listed as the designated hitter.
The rest: Mike Zunino at catcher, Justin Smoak at first base, Robinson Cano at second base, Brad Miller at shortstop, Kyle Seager at third base, and Dustin Ackley and Abraham Almonte in the outfield.
The last Mariner voted into the starting lineup was outfielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2010, although Cano was the American League’s starting second baseman the past four years while playing for the Yankees.
Balloting runs through 8:59 p.m. PDT on July 3. The All-Star Game is July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis.
As expected, left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge rejoined the club prior to Friday’s game after being recalled from Tacoma.
The Mariners had to wait until Friday to make the move because Luetge, 27, was optioned to the Rainiers on April 15 after a previous big-league tour. Players can’t be recalled for 10 days after being optioned to the minors unless they replace someone placed on the disabled list.
Luetge allowed two runs in one inning over two outings in his earlier stay. He was 1-0 in four relief appearances at Tacoma but permitted three runs in 4? innings.
Zunino builds rep
It will be interesting to see how often the Rangers run on catcher Mike Zunino this weekend after seeing two runners erased in their series with the Mariners last week.
“I read about that kid and now I’m seeing it,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “That kid can throw. The one on Elvis (Andrus), he caught a breaking ball with his glove turned up, and he still got it on the money.”
Zunino threw out Andrus in the first inning on April 15 at Texas, which started a streak of throwing out four runners in seven attempts going into Friday’s game.
The Rangers activated third baseman Adrian Beltre prior to Friday’s game after placing Kevin Kouzmanoff on the disabled list. Beltre, a former Mariner, was placed on the disabled list because of a strained left quadriceps muscle. Kouzmanoff has a herniated disk in his lower back. … The White Sox claimed ex-Mariners pitcher Hector Noesi on waivers from the Rangers. He is expected to be in a Chicago uniform today. … Nick Franklin likely will play multiple positions at Class Tacoma, manager Lloyd McClendon said. Franklin returned Thursday to the Rainiers after going 2-for-16 with the Mariners. He played only shortstop and second base in an earlier tour at Tacoma.
Bob Dutton, The News Tribune