Hultzen throws BP, game action looms next

Left-hander working his way back following shoulder surgery in 2014

Hultzen throws BP, game action looms next

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Danny Hultzen's long road back got a little closer on Saturday as the injury-plagued left-hander threw about 25 pitches in his second live batting practice session this spring and said he hopes to be ready to pitch in a Cactus League game this coming week.

"It felt good. I'm just really happy to be pitching again," Hultzen said. "Every time I go out there, I don't take it for granted anymore. After all the stuff that happened, you don't take anything for granted."

Hultzen, 26, is converting to a reliever this year after throwing just eight innings over the past two seasons following shoulder surgery in 2014. The Mariners are taking it slow with him this camp after he pitched well last spring, but then quickly wore down once he started being used as a starter in extended Spring Training.

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After throwing to several Minor League hitters for what amounted to one lengthy inning, Hultzen immediately went to a nearby training table to have his shoulder stretched out by head trainer Rick Griffin.

"That's something we're doing every time I throw, especially after bullpens," Hultzen said. "In my eyes, all that stuff can't hurt. I'm in there [in the training room] every day doing something with Rick and he's been awesome. Whatever he's been doing, it's been feeling really good. I got a little tired there at the end, but other than that, all good."

Even pitching against Minor League hitters in a batting practice situation on a back practice field, Hultzen showed his familiar competitive nature, cursing into his glove after several pitches weren't as sharp as he wanted. The Mariners are trying to get him to relax more this spring and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre - standing behind a screen directly in back of Hultzen on the mound - quickly told him to let it go.

"That's just the way I am," Hultzen said. "I try to force things and kill myself to make it happen, when in reality what's best is just to relax and let it happen."

But don't expect the 2011 first-round Draft pick to become mild-mannered overnight.

"That [competitiveness] will never leave, no matter how much time I miss," he said. "The stuff you need to fine tune from missing so much time is the actual pitches and mechanics and all that. But the competitive fire doesn't go anywhere."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.