Injured pitchers still sidelined, but making progress

Injured pitchers still sidelined, but making progress

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Reliever Stephen Pryor threw live batting practice Friday, which is another step forward for the hard-throwing right-hander as he returns from surgery last fall to repair the latissimus dorsi muscle behind his throwing shoulder.

"He threw a simulated [game] last week and that went well," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We'll see how it goes. He's progressing well. He's throwing under control. It's firm. He feels real good about where he is. We just have to stay with the program."

That same holds true for the Mariners' two injured starters.

Taijuan Walker felt good Friday after his initial bullpen session the day before, as he returns from an inflamed shoulder that shut him down completely for a week.

Walker threw long-toss again Friday and will do so again Saturday, then another bullpen session Sunday.

"He's frustrated. He wants to move faster," McClendon said. "But he'll stay with the program."

Hisashi Iwakuma hasn't thrown a pitch this spring after spraining the tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand right before camp. He caught the finger in a net while jumping to field a ball over his head during a pitching drill.

Iwakuma will see a hand specialist Tuesday for more tests and the Mariners have their fingers crossed. If all goes well, Iwakuma could be told that the splint on his finger can come off and he can begin gripping a ball and throwing again, which would allow him to start rebuilding his arm strength.

"Hopefully we'll have good news [Tuesday]," McClendon said.

Iwakuma worked in the bullpen again Friday doing "towel drills," which involves going through his throwing motion on the mound with a towel wrapped in his hand instead of a ball. The drills are designed to keep him as ready as possible until he gets clearance to throw.

Neither Walker nor Iwakuma will be ready for the start of the regular season, which is now just 17 days away. But if all goes well, both could return sometime in April and only miss a couple of starts each.

Pryor's outlook is more vague, but McClendon has indicated there is an outside chance he'll be ready to at least start throwing in spring games before the regular season opens.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.