Nuno performing well as 'pen swingman

Furbush likely to return to setup role when activated

Nuno performing well as 'pen swingman

SEATTLE -- Vidal Nuno has been a man of many roles out of the bullpen this season.

In 18 games with the D-backs and Mariners, he has appeared in both long relief spots and brief lefty-on-lefty situations. Recently, however, in the absence of Seattle reliever Charlie Furbush, who has been on the disabled list since July 9 with left biceps tendinitis, Nuno has been more of a setup man.

It's a temporary role, one that will likely return to Furbush when he is activated off the disabled list, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has liked what he's seen.

"He's done a tremendous job for us," McClendon said of Nuno before Friday's 5-2 win over Toronto. "He's what you'd call a really nice swing guy that you can put a lot of trust in."

Nuno appeared in four games during Seattle's seven-game road trip, including all three games of the Yankees series, and entering Friday had not allowed a run over his past 5 2/3 innings, which spanned five appearances.

The key to Nuno's recent late-inning effectiveness, McClendon said, is his ability to find the strike zone. Nuno allowed two hits Wednesday, but has not issued a walk in his past nine appearances.

"He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he throws strikes, he knows his way around the mound and knows how to manipulate hitters," McClendon said.

McClendon said he is hopeful Furbush will again throw off flat ground "sometime in the next day or so" as he works his way back from left biceps tendinitis and will soon resume mound work if there are no further setbacks.

In the meantime, Nuno said he will continue to adapt to his temporary bullpen role, which has the bullpen phone ringing for him more often.

"It's a little toll on my arm. Every time you throw, the next day you know you have to take care of it," Nuno said. "I can't dictate [my role], but they've seen how I've pitched and what I do. It's been successful. It's been working out."

Worth noting

• McClendon said left-hander James Paxton, who has been on the disabled list since late May with a strained tendon in his left middle finger, has been throwing on flat ground without setbacks and is close to throwing off a mound. When that happens will depend on how Paxton feels in his next few throwing sessions, McClendon said.

"He's doing ok, he's progressing well," Seattle's manager said. "Close to throwing off the mound. Not quite yet, but he's close. We'll see."

• Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak returned to Safeco Field on Friday for the first time since being claimed off waivers by Toronto last October. Smoak, who spent five seasons with the Mariners, is hitting .241 with nine home runs in 74 games with the Blue Jays.

"I'm happy he's having the success that he's having," McClendon said of Smoak. "I think he's in the right ballpark and he's doing a nice job for them."

Andrew Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.