The first 6 1/2 games of the season were rocky for the Mariners' relievers, but the bullpen is rebounding in terrific style.
And now comes the news that closer David Aardsma, three months and a week removed from left hip surgery, could be ready to go out on an injury-rehabilitation assignment next week.
Aardsma threw 28 pitches in a simulated game Tuesday and wasn't hit hard. He'll get another simulated outing Friday in Kansas City, after which, assuming he continues to feel as good as he says he does now, he'll be ready to get into some minor league games somewhere.
The thing is, the bullpen, after a rocky start, has suddenly kicked things into gear. There doesn't seem to be the crushing need for Aardsma that there was at this time last week.
With 1 2/3 shutout innings by right-handers Chris Ray and Brandon League on Tuesday in a 3-2 win over Toronto, Seattle relievers have brought their ERA down from 8.76 to 3.72 by throwing 16 2/3 innings without allowing a run.
Ray had a chance to give up a run Tuesday when Blue Jays center fielder Corey Patterson attempted to score from third on a deep foul popup behind first base in the eighth inning. But first baseman Justin Smoak made a running catch and a one-hop throw to the plate, Patterson was out, and League pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
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