(Here is today’s Mariners minor-league report).
Quite a night last night in Tacoma as Taijuan Walker shined in his Triple-A debut. Here is my column on his outing.
The next member of the “Big Three” to step to the hill at Cheney Stadium will be left-hander Danny Hultzen, who is scheduled to pitch on Thursday against Las Vegas. He hasn’t pitched for the Rainiers since coming down with a rotator cuff strain in late April — a diagnosis that Hultzen, in an interview last night, admitted was daunting.
“The only time I was scared was at the very beginning when I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” he said. “But once I got checked out by the doctors and they said it wasn’t anything to worry about, it was just something you take time off for and it wasn’t that serious of an injury, that calmed my nerves a whole lot. I was freaking out for a little bit because that (rotator cuff) is a scary word. I’m not going to lie to you — I was a little bit scared there. It was very calming to hear from the doctors that it wasn’t a big deal.”
And now Hultzen says he’s feeling great, though his rehab went longer than he expected — almost two months.
“I thought it was going to be a little shorter because I didn’t really realize I would have to start back from basically scratch. I figured I would take a few days off and start throwing again and then start pitching again quicker. But I realized that’s not really how it works. It did take a little bit longer, but it was for good reason to not jump back into it too quickly. There was no reason to. It was a little bit longer, but it’s all good.”
Hultzen said the first thing he did was take two weeks off from throwing.
“After those two weeks, I started playing catch from a really short distance, probably just 50 feet. Then the next day 60 feet and then a little bit longer and a little bit longer. And then I got up to 120 feet for about 10 minutes. Then I was able to start throwing bullpens. I threw a couple of those. And then I did live BP where there were actual hitters. Then I transitioned into games about 1 or 2 innings. That’s what my life has been for the last few months.
“It was like starting from the offseason. When you come to spring training, you are already in pitching shape. But it’s kind of reminded me of that feeling of not having thrown for a couple months, even though it was a couple weeks. It was that kind of process.”
Last Friday, pitching in the Arizona rookie league, Hultzen worked five strong innings against the Royals youngsters, leading up to tomorrow’s start.
“I’m glad to be back and competing for a team,” he said. “Ive only been back for two days and I’m already having fun. It’s good to be back. I feel really good. I’m ready to go. I had some good outings down there. I got some good work in and now I’m ready to come back. It feels strong. It feels back to normal. I’m not worried about how it feel anymore. I’m just back to being a pitcher.”
At the time of his injury, Hultzen was 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA for Tacoma and seemed to be on the fast track to the majors. He still may make it up this year, but he’s going to have to keep rebuilding his arm strength and show that he’s fully recovered.
“It was very frustrating,” he said. “I was throwing the ball well. I felt good. The team was winning. It was a good vibe until it kind of came crashing down that one day. It was kind of tough. But like I said before, I’m just glad to be back and hope we can get it going again.”