PEORIA, Ariz. -- A long year of waiting for Danny Hultzen came to an end on Saturday as the talented young hurler finally was back on the practice field with the rest of his Mariners teammates, sporting a fully recovered left shoulder.
Following surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum, the second overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft began Spring Training with full medical clearance. He took part in fielding drills and normal first-day activities on Saturday, and Hultzen will throw his first bullpen session Sunday.
The Mariners don't have any expectation of Hultzen being part of their Major League plans this year, given he didn't play at all last season and threw just 35 2/3 innings in 2013 while fighting initial shoulder problems. The goal now is to get the 25-year-old left-hander back on the mound, let him build his arm strength in the coming months and see how things play out.
But for Hultzen, who is ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Mariners' No. 13 prospect, just being part of the team again is a welcome change after spending all last season working out at the Peoria facility.
"I'm very excited," the former Virginia standout said. "I'm just really happy to be able to play again. The rehab went well. It was tough watching these guys last year, but I'm glad to be here now."
Hultzen pitched in controlled situations in a handful of instructional league games at the end of last season, then spent the offseason at home before resuming throwing in late November. All things considered, he said his year of rehab wasn't as bad as expected.
"The whole process went smoother than I thought, having talked to people who'd had arm surgeries and gone through a lot of ups and downs," he said. "Luckily I never really went through that, knock on wood. I felt good the entire time and didn't have any major setbacks or anything like that."
And now? Hultzen threw five bullpen sessions prior to camp and felt great. He fired full out in fielding drills on Saturday without a flinch.
"I'm good to go. There's no restrictions or anything," he said. "I'm treating myself like I'm fully healthy, which I am. I don't think there'll be any reservations about being in a game or holding back or anything like that. I feel like I have a completely new arm, which is great."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.