Benoit could be activated on next road trip

Mariners reliever has been sidelined with shoulder inflammation

Benoit could be activated on next road trip

SEATTLE -- Injured relievers Joaquin Benoit and Charlie Furbush will each throw a simulated inning in a controlled situation against Mariners hitters prior to Saturday's game vs. the Angels. They are working back from shoulder injuries.

This is welcome news to a club that has posted some of the best bullpen numbers in the Majors, despite a series of setbacks.

Benoit is the closest to returning of Seattle's five relievers on the disabled list. If all goes well Saturday, he'll likely be activated off the 15-day DL Tuesday, when the club opens a six-game road trip in Baltimore. The 38-year-old setup man has missed 16 games with inflammation in his right shoulder.

Furbush is just beginning the long return from left shoulder issues that have sidelined him since July and then set him back again in Spring Training. He's expected to follow up Saturday's session with another controlled situation in Tacoma next week, before heading to the team's facility in Peoria, Ariz., to begin building up his innings against Minor League hitters over the next month.

"Hopefully everything goes well [on Saturday] and we can take the next step from there," manager Scott Servais said. "They're feeling great and are excited to get out there."

Rookie Tony Zych, who has missed 10 games since going on the DL with right rotator-cuff tendinitis, is scheduled to begin playing catch Saturday as he begins his own return.

"Just light catch, we'll see how it feels and hopefully climb the ladder from there," said Zych, who posted a 3.00 ERA in 10 outings before going on the DL during the last road trip.

Despite losing those three -- as well as Evan Scribner and Ryan Cook in spring -- the Mariners' bullpen entered Friday's series against the Angels with the lowest WHIP (1.00) add opponents' batting average (.181) in the Majors and second-lowest ERA at 2.34.

"It's working. All of our guys have done a nice job," said Servais. "They've thrown strikes and been aggressive. For the most part, the first guy they face, they get out. They're coming in and going right after them.

"I couldn't be any happier with the job the bullpen has done and I'm also excited about getting Benoit back, too, because he really does solidify the whole thing."

Worth noting

• Of the Mariners' first 34 games, 25 were against teams that had winning records last year. They went 15-10 in those games, including 11-8 against four 2015 playoff teams (the Rangers, Astros, Yankees and Royals).

• After losing its first two series of the season, Seattle is 8-0-1. The Mariners are tied with the Cubs for most winning series of any team in the Majors; the Nationals, Orioles and Rangers are tied for third with seven apiece.

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.