Felix throws bullpen session, builds up strength

Mariners ace eager to rejoin rotation; Paxton also nears return

Felix throws bullpen session, builds up strength

SEATTLE -- Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez threw a 27-pitch bullpen session Friday with a mix of fastballs and changeups at about 70 to 80 percent intensity. He said he's been pain-free in his shoulder for about a week and is working on building up strength in his throwing arm as he recovers.

Hernandez has been on the disabled list since Aug. 2 with right shoulder bursitis, his second disabled list stint due to right shoulder complications this season.

"I'm just trying to get stronger and stronger, and I feel good," Hernandez said. "I feel real good."

Hernandez's rotation mate, James Paxton will throw a bullpen session Saturday. He's also in the middle of his second disabled list of the season, as he's been out with a strained right pectoral muscle since Aug. 11.

"It helps getting those guys closer," manager Scott Servais said.

Once Hernandez and Paxton prove they're healthy, they'll be inserted back in the Mariners rotation.

"They'll probably get out of the bullpen twice, get some hitters in a sim game, then go from there," Servais said. "I think you get to the point where you get them into a game, they're not going to go out there and throw six innings their first time out, you're going to have to build them up."

If there's a time that strategy would work, it's now. The Mariners added four additional arms to their bullpen with September callups on Friday, and more could be on the way.

Hernandez was confident he'll pitch for the Mariners this season, along with Paxton, to help with a push for a playoff spot.

"We need to be healthy," Hernandez said. "We need to make a run in September."

Worth noting

• With the acquisition of Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales loses his spot in the starting rotation. He has a 7.40 ERA in five starts with the Mariners this season.

Hisashi Iwakuma, who been on the disabled list since May 7 with inflammation in his right shoulder, has been throwing bullpen sessions, but isn't any closer to returning.

Tony Zych will throw a bullpen session Saturday. He's been out since Aug. 20 with a right elbow flexor bundle strain.

Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.