Zych takes notable step toward return

Reliever puts repaired bicep tendon to the test

Zych takes notable step toward return

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's been six months since Tony Zych threw a pitch to a live batter. So yeah, even though it was just teammate Tuffy Gosewisch in the cage taking swings, the 26-year-old Mariners right-hander was all smiles after a morning mound session at the Peoria Sports Complex on Wednesday.

"It felt really good," said Zych, who is coming back from bicep tendon transfer surgery in his right arm. "A couple pitches and I felt like I was right there. Obviously, I wasn't trying to do too, too much. Just get out front with the hitter in the box and try not to hit 'em."

But Zych did more than just avoid contact with Gosewisch. He looked and felt strong in the session, which was closely viewed by general manager Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais and several members of the training staff.

"I haven't got the adrenaline going in a while and just to bring it up a little bit was awesome," Zych said. "I've been wanting to do this so bad. My favorite thing is competing. That's what I want to do."

Zych hasn't ruled out the possibility of still being ready by Opening Day on April 3, though he knows caution remains in order after dealing with setbacks last season. He'll take a few days off, likely throw another live batting practice session and potentially be ready for game action after that.

"My goal is to be on the team and do what I can to help as soon as I can," he said. "I would like that, but obviously I have to listen to myself and respond to this and see how I feel tomorrow."

Servais liked what he saw, but sounded doubtful Zych could be ready by the season's start.

"We're looking for the long haul here, not the short-term fix," said Servais. "He looked pretty healthy. We'll keep our fingers crossed he comes back well out of that. He could be a nice piece for us. He's certainly had success at the big-league level when he's been healthy before. Hopefully he comes back good tomorrow and we'll see where it goes from there."

After a strong September in 2015, Zych was expected to be a big part of last year's bullpen. But he went on the disabled list after the first month, tried to come back toward the end of the year and wound up on the DL again following two appearances in late August.

Now he's ready to give it another run. And he said there was no concern about the repaired biceps tendon once he began firing in earnest on the mound.

"Once I got out there I felt great," he said. "There was no hesitation at all. It is what it is. It's either attached or it's not, right?"

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.