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July 3, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Hultzen’s shoulder irritation “a minor setback,” Zduriencik says

Left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen, scratched from his scheduled start in Tacoma last night when he couldn’t get loose, suffered “a minor setback,” Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said.

Hultzen, who missed two months earlier this season with a strained rotator cuff, saw Dr. Greg Popich in Seattle on Wednesday. Hultzen’s condition was described as an “irritation” in the area of his rotator cuff.

‘(Popich)  and (team medical director Ed Khalfayan have been in contact all day,” Zduriencik said. “I think we’re considering it a minor setback. I think it’s just an aggravation of what he’s had. What we’re going to do is look at maybe some adjustments to his rehab program. We’ll quiet it down for probably 10-14 days where we’ll back him off and get him back on the rehab program.

“Everything is structurally fine. He just has this irritation that has flared up. We are just going to look at some alternatives on how to address this, but it’s not as issue that needs surgery. It’s nothing that is overly alarming. It’s just a minor setback from where he was at.”

The key now, Zduriencik said, is to figure out what is causing the irritation. Hultzen did not undergo a new MRI today.

“The doctors have an idea and the rehab program will address that,” he said.

Hultzen, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, worked six shutout innings in his first start back from the original injury. Zduriencik said he had worked hard during his rehab to strengthen his shoulder.

“All the criteria for him to come back and pitch was good,” Zduriencik said. “He felt the strength was good. He really felt fine, so the fact it flared up again – has started to flare up – that’s why they backed him off yesterday. Let’s re-adjust and take a precautionary route. We’re all going to get our heads together again in the next couple of days to figure out exactly what we’re going to do. But right now, he’ll be on medication. Once they quiet him down, they’ll start his strength and conditioning program again. But I do think we’re all going to be involved in figuring out why this irritation has popped up again.”

One thing they’ll look at is to see if Hultzen’s delivery needs to be tweaked.

“I’ve talked to them about that,” Zduriencik said. “And I talked to (minor-league pitching coordinator) Rick Waits about it today as well, (farm director) Chris Gwynn as well. Everybody’s body is structured a little bit different. I think in this particular case there may some weaknesses in there that he needs to have specifically strengthened.”

Asked if he expected Hultzen to pitch again this year, Zduriencik said,  “Oh yeah. A few minutes ago, Ed said he thinks it’s a minor setback. But because of who Danny is, and what we have invested in him, the quality of guy we think he’s going to be, I think the best thing to do, we’d rather be a day late than a day early on this one.”

Hultzen, 23, had given no indication in his previous start that anything was amiss.

“That’s the ironic part of it,” Zduriencik said. “His outing in Arizona before that where he threw the five innings, he felt great. After the outing the other day, he felt great. It was just yesterday when he started to throw, he felt like he couldn’t get loose. Ok, so why would you run him out there under those circumstances based on what he just came off of? So lets back him off. Let’s re-address this whole program and see exactly where we are at.

“I’ll have more answers in the next day or two than I do today. Intially, it’s just back him off, put him on a program, put him on anti-inflammatories and lets all put our heads together to see where we are going with this. We don’t think it’s anything major. We just think it’s something where we are going to take the precautionary route, which is where we are at right now. It’s the smart thing to do.”

On another injury note. Jesus Montero, who underwent knee surgery in early June, is going to DH in a game in Arizona on Friday.

“Everything is good,” Zduriencik said. “He’s been in Arizona working out really well. Obviously, we are going to DH, but he’s making good progress.”

Montero’s days as a catcher are almost certainly done for this season.

“I don’t think we’ll put him behind the plate,” Zduriencik said. “I think right now, certainly based on what he’s gone through, and the whole plan all along was just to give him a few days behind the plate, so I think what we’ll do now, especially this year, we’ll just keep him at first base, let him DH and get him playing again and get him swinging a bat.

“Let’s see how this thing all works together in Arizona. The fact that he’s going to be playing this week is good news.”

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