ARLINGTON -- The long road back to the Major Leagues from elbow surgery could be hours away for right-hander Mark Lowe. The Mariners will make a roster move prior to Tuesday night's doubleheader opener against the Rangers, probably sending left-handed reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith to Triple-A Tacoma to create a roster spot for Game 1 starter Ryan Feierabend, and could make another move after the opener -- replacing the lefty starter with Lowe, making him available for the nightcap. And how sweet that would be for the lanky right-hander from Houston who bypassed the Triple-A level last season, and who made a strong impression before suffering the elbow injury, originally diagnosed as right elbow tendinitis.
It later was determined that the 24-year-old had a "chondral defect," and it was surgically repaired on Oct. 6 by noted physician Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles. Lowe has been on the comeback trail ever since. "I'm ready to go," Lowe said on Monday. "My velocity was 93-94 the last time I pitched, and everything feels good, feels normal. I have good command with all of my pitches." Lowe's methodical return to the big leagues has gone without a major setback, something he credits to the advice he has received from throughout the organization's medical staff. "It has been a blessing to be able to take it one step at a time and not take any steps backward," he said. "I just put my trust in them and in what they are doing. Everybody has given me a lot of support. I couldn't have done this on my own." A fifth-round Draft choice in 2004, Lowe zipped through the farm system. He started at Class A Everett, moving on to Class A Wisconsin in '05. He started the '06 season at Class A Inland Empire, where he appeared in 13 games, moved up to Double-A San Antonio for his next 11 appearances, and finally to Seattle, where he posted a 1-0 record and 1.93 ERA in 15 relief appearances. The elbow injury knocked him for a loop, and he wondered if he ever would pitch in the big leagues again. "That was the biggest thing in my mind," he said. Look for him to be brought back slowly, pitching one inning at a time, probably in long or middle relief. Courting Aumont: The Mariners have signed 23 of the players they selected in last month's First-Year Player Draft, including third baseman Matthew Mangini, the "sandwich" selection between the first and second rounds received for losing pitcher Gil Meche to the Royals. But first-round choice Phillippe Aumont, a pitcher from Quebec, and second-round selection Denny Almonte, a center fielder from Florida Christian School, remain unsigned heading into the final week of July. Under new rules this year, Major League organizations face an Aug. 15 signing deadline. Benny Looper, the Mariners vice president of player personnel, said contract negotiations are ongoing with Aumont, the 11th Draft choice overall, Almonte and No. 8 Draft choice Donald Hume, a left-handed pitcher from the University of San Diego, who had a bone spur removed last spring. Aumont, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who starred for the Canadian Junior National Team and was voted by Perfect Game as the Canada East Player of the Year, was rated by Baseball America as one of the top right-handed pitchers heading into the 2007 Draft, the No. 9 high school prospect and the top Canadian prospect. He is believed to be asking for about $100,000 more than Seattle is offering. But Aumont is not alone when it comes to first-round Draft choices being unsigned. As of Monday afternoon, four of the first five selections -- including No. 1 overall selection David Price by the Devil Rays -- were unsigned, as were eight of the first 12. Daniel Moskos, the fourth overall pick by the Pirates, signed for $2.475 million. Casey Weathers, the Rockies' top choice and No. 8 overall, agreed to a $1.8 million deal, while the Indians inked their first-round choice, Beau Mills (13th overall) to a $1.575 million contract. Aumont probably will settle for something in the $1.6 million neighborhood. Mangini was Seattle's second pick -- the 52nd overall selection. The former Oklahoma State University player won the Cape Cod League batting title two years ago, signed on June 21 and currently is playing for the Class A Everett AquaSox. He was one of four Oklahoma State players to start in all 60 games this past season and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors. Mangini finished second on the team in doubles (16), and fourth in batting average (.343), home runs (9) and RBIs (49). Trivia challenge: Ichiro Suzuki has hit six home runs in 60 career at-bats at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the most in any other AL park except Safeco Field. What is Ichiro's second-favorite AL launching pad on the road? He needed that: Overlooked in the Mariners' 8-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon was the inning right-hander Brandon Morrow pitched. He worked the seventh inning and was impressive, striking out Alex Rios, Troy Glaus and Vernon Wells -- the meat of Toronto's lineup. Of the 13 pitches Morrow threw, nine of them were strikes. "I felt good, consistent, had some good life on my fastball and threw strikes," Morrow said prior to Monday night's game against the Rangers. "My last few outings have been building up to something like that. I have been throwing more strikes and cutting down on the walks." Morrow, the Mariners' No. 1 Draft choice in 2006, has experienced a roller-coaster ride for much of the season and appears headed back to the top. Periodic control lapses have been the only glitch during his rookie season, and the three strikeouts on Sunday gave him more whiffs (38) than walks (36). His 8-4 strikeout/walk ratio in July is a vast improvement over June, when he walked 15 and struck out 9; May (10-12) and April (7-9). "A game like that does a lot for any pitcher, rookie or veteran," pitching coach Rafael Chaves said. "Anytime you have an outing like that, it's a great confidence builder. How much better can you throw than that?" The answer is: Ichiro has hit four home runs at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. On deck: The four-game series continues Tuesday night with a traditional doubleheader. Left-hander Ryan Feierabend (1-3, 9.31 ERA) gets the start for the Mariners in the 2 p.m. PT opener against Rangers left-hander John Rheinecker (0-0, 12.00). The nightcap features lefty Jarrod Washburn (8-7, 4.02) opposing the Rangers' Kameron Loe (5-8, 5.69).
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.