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July 12, 2014 at 5:02 PM

Paxton on track to make first rehab start next week

Pitcher James Paxton is on track to make his first rehab start for Class A Everett next week — marking a step closer to him rejoining the Mariners sometime after the all-star break.

Paxton’s rehab start is dependent on how feels Sunday after throwing 53 pitches on Saturday in another simulated game. If he feels good on Sunday, manager Lloyd McClendon said, Paxton will head to Everett and start on Thursday. If he experiences soreness, he will likely make another simulated start.

Paxton hasn’t pitched in a game since April 8 because of a strained lat.

“Everything feels good,” Paxton said. “It’s just one step at a time to get my stuff back to where it needs to be to pitch here, but I think after a couple rehab starts, a little more refinement, a couple of bullpen (sessions), I think it will be good to go.”

Paxton’s recovery has been a long one, but if he’s able to return at some point after the all-star break, he could give the Mariners depth and options in the starting rotation. He had given up only three runs in 12 innings in his first two starts before the injury.

Paxton said all signs point to him starting his rehab assignment.

“For me, it’s just having that smooth delivery and finding my finish and my release point on all my pitches,” Paxton said. “As long as I have that going for me, I feel pretty good out there. So far it’s been really good, and I feel like I’m making good progress.”

Zunino more rest?

One of the reasons the Mariners elected to go with Jesus Sucre as their backup catcher instead of John Buck was to ideally give starting catcher Mike Zunino more time off.

It’s part of the reason Sucre made his first start this season on Saturday against the A’s.

McClendon said he has probably played Zunino more than he would have liked in the first half of the season. But Sucre is viewed as better defensively than Buck, and McClendon said he doesn’t have any concerns about using Sucre with any of his pitchers.

Ideally, McClendon would like to play Zunino about five times a week to keep him fresh. McClendon has also pointed out before that Zunino’s numbers drop after he’s played four days in a row.

All-star game notes

McClendon said he can’t see a scenario in which Felix Hernandez, the likely starter for the American League in the All-Star game, throws so many pitches that he won’t be able to start the Mariners’ second game after the all-star break as scheduled.

McClendon also said he was “surprised and disappointed” that closer Fernando Rodney, who leads the league in saves, hasn’t been added to the All-Star Game. McClendon also added,  “But I understand the process. Nothing I can do about it.”

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