Maurer sharp in return to mound

Maurer sharp in return to mound

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A bad back has kept starting candidate Brandon Maurer sidelined much of the spring, but the young right-hander returned to action Tuesday with an inning of work against Double-A hitters in a Minor League game.

Maurer threw in just two Cactus League games in early March before being sidelined because of tightness in his back and neck. So Tuesday's 19-pitch outing was an important step back for the 23-year-old who won a starting job with the Mariners with a strong spring last year.

He's not going to be ready for the start of this season, but he was encouraged by his work against the Mariners' Minor League lineup, working three outs around a two-out double by Julio Morban.

"I'm just trying to get the feel back for all four of my pitches, but it felt pretty good for the first time," Maurer said. "I'm finally pain free with everything."

Maurer said he'll likely throw three innings in his next outing this weekend.

Manager Lloyd McClendon again was impressed by the quality of Maurer's pitches and said his biggest challenge will be relaxing more on the mound as he works to improve on last year's 5-8 record and 6.30 ERA in 22 appearances, including 14 starts.

"It's just electric stuff," McClendon said. "His stuff is as good as anybody in camp. I think we all know he has electric stuff, he just has to some way find his inner peace for that stuff to work for him."

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.