Notes: Lowe ready for rehab outings

Notes: Lowe ready for rehab outings

SEATTLE -- Mark Lowe was so excited about his simulated game Saturday, he had trouble falling asleep Friday night.

His simulated game went well, and he may be able to sleep easier now that his next task includes facing batters in actual game situations, starting Tuesday with Triple-A Tacoma.

"I was so anxious just to get out there and compete," Lowe said about his simulated game. "If that's the closest I can get right now, then that's what makes me happy."

Lowe pitched his first simulated game on Wednesday.

His pitches reached as high as 92 mph on the stadium radar gun, a good sign for the 24-year-old who has yet to pitch in a Major League game this season. Last season he posted an impressive 1.93 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings, despite jumping straight from Double-A to the big leagues.

It's been a long road for Lowe to get back into his pitching routine. After two surgeries on his right elbow -- to repair cartilage defects and then scar-tissue removal -- and much reflecting, he's anxious and excited to work his way back into the Mariners' bullpen but is still cautiously optimistic.

"It was hard to swallow, knowing that I might never pitch again," Lowe said. "Just looking back on all your hard work, and what you've had to go through, you can sit down at the end of the day and go, 'Well, all of it paid off, as of right now.'"

He will pitch in at least three rehabilitation games, two in Tacoma and one at the Mariners' Class A affiliate in Everett, Wash.

The rehab stints will consist of one inning in each game, followed by two days of rest. Once those three dates have been completed, manager Mike Hargrove said Lowe will be evaluated to see if he's ready to return to Seattle's bullpen.

If not, he'll continue pitching in the Minors until he's comfortable again.

Lowe has slowly built up the strength in his right elbow to the point where it's finally pain-free, starting at the Mariners' spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz. Then there were bullpen sessions, simulated games, and now, finally, rehabilitation games.

"There were times where you go to the field in the morning in Arizona and you just feel terrible," Lowe said. "Obviously you get down, there's always something wrong; there's something messed up. You just have to kind of fight through it and deal with the pain."

Some points were much lower than others.

"When I looked at a baseball, it hurt," Lowe joked.

He's come a long way since then, though, and with the pending return of Chris Reitsma, who is scheduled to pitch rehab games in Tacoma on Sunday and Tuesday, the bullpen will shift around and moves will have to be made to accommodate Reitsma and Lowe.

And although the bullpen has performed extremely well despite their absence, Reitsma and Lowe would give Seattle a big boost.

"If those guys are back pitching the way they can, there's no dilemma," Hargrove said about having to make room in the bullpen. "Maybe a tough decision, but not a dilemma."

Starter Horacio Ramirez's rehabilitation start in Tacoma on Saturday night wasn't a long one, as Ramirez allowed six runs on six hits in four innings, issuing two walks while striking out two against the Salt Lake Bees.

Trivia time: Heading into Saturday's game, Ichiro Suzuki has the highest June batting average in club history, hitting .419. At least for one more day, who holds the current franchise batting record in June? See below for the answer.

Ka-Putz: Despite all the shuffling around that will soon happen in Seattle's bullpen, there's one player on the roster who's job is secure -- closer J.J. Putz.

But could Putz, who's trying to become just the second Mariners pitcher to post an ERA under 1.00 at the All-Star break, be heading to San Francisco for the Midsummer Classic?

His manager certainly thinks so.

"I can't see how J.J. can be left off the All-Star team," Hargrove said. "But you know, I've got five kids, and learned to never say never."

Putz is 23-for-23 in save opportunities this season and holds the club record for saves in June with 11. He was even called upon in Friday's win over the Blue Jays to record the final five outs of the game, something Hargrove said will not become a habit in an effort to keep his closer effective.

Both Putz and reliever Brandon Morrow were not expected to pitch in Saturday's game because of their work on Friday.

Putz didn't argue with the decision, which was made entirely by Hargrove.

"I told him that, but I could see it in his face that he didn't disagree," Hargrove said.

He also said the Mariners are very close to calling off any more five-out save opportunities to "keep him happy and keep him viable all year long."

Putz has been extremely effective in the first half of the season, and although Hargrove kept his All-Star votes secret from the media, he hinted about one player who may be on it.

"I would think maybe [Putz] might be one of them," he said.

Ibanez close: Raul Ibanez (hamstring strain) was close to returning to the starting lineup for Saturday but was held out one more day, not by his own choice.

"He's upset he's not playing today, which is good," Hargrove said. "That's a good sign."

Hargrove said Ibanez may return for Sunday's series finale against Toronto.

And the answer is ... Edgar Martinez holds the current club record for batting in June, .402, set in 1995.

On deck: The Mariners close out their 12-game homestand against the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Jeff Weaver (2-6, 7.71 ERA) looks to keep his momentum going against righty Shaun Marcum (4-2, 3.13) at 1:05 p.m. PT.

Patrick Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.