Benoit throws, nears return to Seattle bullpen

Benoit throws, nears return to Seattle bullpen

SEATTLE -- Veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit appears to be getting close to returning to the Mariners' bullpen after a throwing session on Monday went well as he works back from shoulder inflammation that landed him on the 15-day disabled list two weeks ago.

Benoit, a key member of the relief crew as the right-handed setup man to closer Steve Cishek, hasn't thrown in a game since April 21. He posted a 3.60 ERA over five innings in his first five outings, but was shut down with right shoulder soreness.

That issue lingered through much of Spring Training for the 38-year-old, but manager Scott Servais said Monday's bullpen session -- Benoit's first test off the mound since he was shut down -- went extremely well.

"Very positive," Servais said. "That was all thumbs up there. He'll probably throw again [Wednesday], and if that goes good, sometime late in the week or on the weekend we'll set up a sim game with some hitters and see where we go from there."

If all continues to go smoothly, Benoit could be in position to rejoin the club on its road trip next week.

Servais said lefty reliever Charlie Furbush also threw well in a Monday bullpen session as he works his way back from the shoulder issues that have sidelined him since early in Spring Training. That was Furbush's third bullpen session and he's close to facing live hitters as well, though his return is much further away.

"He'll throw probably one more bullpen [Wednesday] or Friday," Servais said. "He needs to go through all Spring Training, so he'll probably go down to Arizona and get it cranked up down there."

Rookie right-hander Tony Zych hasn't begun throwing since going on the 15-day DL last week with tendinitis in his shoulder. Zych said his arm is feeling much better, but he won't likely be cleared to begin playing catch until later this week or next.

Two other relievers -- Ryan Cook and Evan Scribner -- are already in Arizona working their way back from lat strains that sidelined them since the start of spring. Cook remains ahead of Scribner in his return and has been throwing well recently, according to Servais, but both those pitchers face extensive Minor League rehab stints once they're game ready and Cook is on the 60-day DL, so he's not even eligible to return until June 2.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.