While James Paxton and Felix Hernandez remain on track to return this week to active duty, the calendar is starting to work against Hisashi Iwakuma and Jarrod Dyson.
Iwakuma showed progress Saturday in his recovery from a sore shoulder when he pitched two simulated innings before the Mariners continued their weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
"I’ve felt every day that I could come back and come back well," Iwakuma said after throwing 30 pitches. "I’ve used that as a (motivation) every day to work harder to be prepared. So it would be mean a lot to be able to make it back.
"I think there’s a chance I can make it back. I’m trusting in myself that I’m going to be back."
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But Iwakuma, 36, hasn’t pitched since May 3 and, despite Saturday’s upbeat results, remains a long shot to pitch for the Mariners before the season ends in three weeks.
"He’s still able to manipulate the ball," manager Scott Servais said. "Spin it. Do all of the other stuff. It’s a matter of the hand speed and where he’s at there…he’s still got a little work to do."
The news is, if anything, even bleaker regarding Dyson, a speedy outfielder who hasn’t play since aggravating a strained right groin muscle when he broke from the batter’s box in a Sept. 2 game against Oakland.
Dyson, 33, missed 11 games because of the injury in August and, after returning from the disabled list, lasted just two games before the problem returned. It then persisted Friday when he took part in pre-game drills
"He didn’t have great results (Friday)," Servais said. "He still feels it."
Friday’s setback makes it increasingly likely that Dyson, a pending free agent, might not play again this season.
While the Mariners hold a $10 million club option on Iwakuma, they are expected to exercise a $1 million buyout clause, which would also make him a free agent.
Paxton and Hernandez each pitched two simulated innings Friday in their recovery from injuries and, after experiencing no day-after complications, are tentatively slotted to rejoin the rotation on next week’s trip to Texas and Houston.
Servais hedged in specifying when Paxton and Hernandez will pitch, although it appears likely that each will start either on or before Sept. 15 in Houston. Such a timetable would enable each to make four starts before the season concludes.
Hernandez, 31, hasn’t pitched since bursitis in his shoulder resurfaced July 31 at Texas. Paxton, 28, departed an Aug. 10 game against the Angels because of a strained left pectoral muscle.
Ben Gamel’s two hits Friday pushed his season total to 121 and moved him past Ken Griffey Jr. and into ninth place on the franchise’s all-time rookie list. Griffey had 120 hits as a rookie in 1989.
What’s notable about Gamel’s achievement is he began the season at Triple-A Tacoma and didn’t join the big-league club until April 26. He carried a .278 average into Saturday’s game.
Ichiro Suzuki holds the franchise rookie hit record with 242 hits in 2001, which is also the major-league rookie record. Alvin Davis, who turned 57 on Saturday, ranks second in franchise history with 161 hits as a rookie.
Other rookies ahead of Gamel: Ruppert Jones (157 in 1977), Kenji Johjima (147 in 2006), Danny Tartabull (138 in 1986), Jesus Montero (134 in 2012), Manny Castillo (130 in 1982) and Jeremy Reed (124 in 2005).
CHASING MORE NUMBERS
Nelson Cruz entered Saturday with 118 homers over his three seasons with the Mariners, which ranks ninth in MLB history for homers in a three-year period with the same club. Mark McGwire holds the record with 159 for St. Louis in 1997-99.
Also ahead of Cruz: Alex Rodriguez (156, Texas, 2001-03), Babe Ruth (148, New York Yankees, 1920-22), Roger Maris (133, New York Yankees, 1960-62), Cecil Fielder (130, Detroit, 1990-92), Jimmie Foxx (127, Boston, 1936-38), Rodriguez (119, New York Yankees, 2004-06) and David Ortiz (119, Boston, 2003-05).
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners