All signs point to Friday return for Leonys

All signs point to Friday return for Leonys

SEATTLE -- Center fielder Leonys Martin hit against live pitching and ran the bases on Wednesday afternoon for the first time since going on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring, and the 27-year-old is expected to rejoin the Mariners on Friday.

Martin will play seven innings in center field on Thursday in a Minor League rehab game with Triple-A Tacoma, and all signs point to him being full go when the Mariners open a three-game series against his former Rangers club on Friday at Safeco Field.

"It feels pretty good, man. Being at home plate for a little bit was a very good feeling," Martin said after Wednesday's pregame work. "[The leg feels] amazing. It feels like Day 1 of Spring Training. I feel great."

That is welcome news for the Mariners, who were 4-8 in Martin's absence going into Wednesday night's game with the Indians. His defense in center field was a huge factor in the club's early success, and he's also hit .262 with a career-high nine home runs and had moved into the leadoff role shortly before he hurt his hamstring on May 25.

"It's affected our entire club, obviously defensively, no doubt," manager Scott Servais said. "Our pitchers, our pitching coach, everybody. Nothing against the guys that are out there, but they're not at the level that Leonys is, and you become accustomed to outs on balls that could be doubles. Sometimes it goes unnoticed until it's not out there.

"And the way he was swinging the bat, he was kind of a catalyst for us at some points. He was getting on base, hit some home runs, he did a number of things to help us out. We've missed him."

Martin said he'll still need to be cautious initially to not reinjure the leg, but he's eager to get back in the lineup.

"This is the longest 15 days I've ever seen in my life," he said. "But it's a process. I had to take it easy to do my treatment and try to be ready for my new season."

Martin hit against Jarrett Grube, a 34-year-old right-hander who was released this week by the Indians after posting a 4.43 ERA in 11 games, including seven starts, at Triple-A Columbus. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto used the opportunity to take a look at Grube, who pitched one game in relief for the Angels in 2014 and was with the Mariners' Minor League system from 2010-12.

Grube said he threw everything at Martin and that the veteran looked great. And Servais was in full agreement there.

"It looked like he hadn't missed a beat," Servais said. "He was smoking balls all over the park."

Worth noting

• Shortstop Ketel Marte was back in the lineup Wednesday after being scratched during batting practice on Tuesday when he was hit with neck spasms after turning his head too quickly. Marte said he felt better postgame and is full go again after returning from the 15-day DL on Monday due to a sprained left thumb.

• Saturday will be Fight Hunger Night at Safeco Field, with the Mariners joining with KIRO Radio 97.3 FM to gather food and donations for Northwest Harvest. Volunteers will be at the gates prior to that night's 7:10 p.m. PT game against the Rangers, accepting donations and non-perishable food items.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for 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.