By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas — Just when it looked as though Danny Hultzen might be getting somewhat close to putting on a Seattle Mariners uniform, the Mariners’ prized pitching prospect was sidetracked by more injury frustration.
Hultzen was scratched before his start on Tuesday night for Class AAA Tacoma after struggling to get loose and feeling tightness in his left throwing shoulder.
On Wednesday, Hultzen met with Dr. Greg Popich, who is working in conjunction with Dr. Edward Khalfayan, the Mariners’ team doctor in Seattle.
According to general manager Jack Zduriencik, the results of the meeting were positive.
“We don’t think it’s anything major,” Zduriencik said. “We just think it’s something where we are going to take the precautionary route. It’s the smart thing to do.”
The doctors are considering this “a minor setback” in Hultzen’s recovery from a rotator cuff strain he suffered in April. Hultzen experienced similar tightness while trying to prepare for a start on April 26 and was scratched. He was shut down for two weeks before beginning a long recovery process.
“I think it’s just an aggravation of what he’s had,” Zduriencik said. “What we’re going to do is look at maybe some adjustments to his rehab program. We’ll quiet it down for probably 10-14 days where we’ll back him off and get him back on the rehab program. Everything is structurally fine. He just has this irritation that has flared up. We are just going to look at some alternatives on how to address this, but it’s not an issue that needs surgery. It’s nothing that is overly alarming.”
The bigger issue is what is causing the irritation that has led to the strain and the recent setback. The Mariners thought they had it figured out the first time.
“We just have to figure out what is causing the irritation,” Zduriencik said. “The doctors have an idea and the rehab program will address that.”
Zduriencik didn’t think it was being caused by his delivery or throwing mechanics, but wouldn’t rule it out.
“I don’t know. I’ve talked to (the doctors) about that,” he said. “And I talked to Rick Waits (minor league pitching coordinator) about it today as well and Chris Gwynn (director of minor league operations) as well. Everybody’s body is structured a little bit different. I think in this particular case there may some weaknesses in there that he needs to have specifically strengthened.”
After being out since April, Hultzen looked solid in his first start back with the Rainiers last week. He threw six shutout innings, giving up two hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Zduriencik said Hultzen felt no pain after the outing.
“After the outing the other day, he felt great,” Zduriencik said. “It was just yesterday when he started to throw, he felt like he couldn’t get loose. Ok, so why would you run him out there under those circumstances based on what he just came off of? So let’s back him off. Let’s re-address this whole program and see exactly where we are at. I’ll have more answers in the next day or two than I do today.”
Montero on the mend
Jesus Montero’s recovery from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus is almost complete. Zduriencik said Montero will serve as the designated hitter on July 5 for the Mariners team in the Arizona rookie league.
“Everything is good,” Zduriencik said. “He’s been in Arizona working out really well. Obviously, we are going to DH, but he’s making good progress.”
Because of the knee injury, Montero won’t be catching the rest of the season.
“I don’t think we’ll put him behind the plate,’ Zduriencik said. “Right now, certainly based on what he’s gone through, and the whole plan all along was just to give him a few days behind the plate, so I think what we’ll do now, especially this year, we’ll just keep him at first base, let him DH and get him playing again and get him swinging a bat.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said outfielder Michael Morse is feeling much better in his recovery from a strained quadriceps, but that Morse would need to some game action on a rehab assignment before joining the team. … Outfielder Michael Saunders is progressing from a smashed middle finger on his throwing hand. Wedge expects Saunders to be in the lineup in Cincinnati this weekend. … Major League baseball will announce the 2013 All-Star game rosters on Saturday. The Mariners two best candidates are Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.