Felix progressing in recovery from calf strain

Mariners ace close to throwing as he targets return in early July

Felix progressing in recovery from calf strain

BOSTON - Felix Hernandez's strained right calf is finally feeling better, which is good news for a Mariners club that is without two starting pitchers at the moment while trying to stay competitive in the American League West race.

Hernandez hasn't pitched in three weeks after injuring his leg in a pregame stretching session. And while his arrival isn't imminent, the Mariners ace will soon begin throwing again and building his arm back up for a potential return in early July.

"He's going to start throwing, playing catch here, probably early this next week," manager Scott Servais said. "Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday, and start stretching it out from there. He's feeling much better, not having any issues. Just normal everyday living is fine. It's calmed down. You have to get it calmed down before you can start doing anything."

It's not all about Hernandez, but the Mariners were 28-19 and leading the AL West by 1 1/2 games on his last start on May 27. They've gone 8-13 since heading into Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox at Fenway Park and were 7 1/2 games back of the red-hot Rangers.

Seattle is also without veteran lefty Wade Miley, who went on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with a sore left shoulder. His scheduled turn on Saturday was taken by rookie Adrian Sampson in a game the Mariners lost, 6-2.

Servais said Miley played some light catch prior to Sunday's game and should be in line to return as soon as he's eligible to come off the DL on June 28.

"He's feeling better, too," Servais said. "He's going to be fine when he does come available to get back in the rotation. It's exactly what we figured. We just needed to calm it down, give it 2-3 days and skip a start or two and get back after it."

That means Sampson will get one more start on Thursday in Detroit, but Miley could rejoin the rotation the following turn. Sampson allowed eight hits and four runs in 4 2/3 innings in his MLB debut and Servais acknowledged it's hard to judge much off those type situations.

"We'll go with him in Detroit. Give him a go. Get him in a little routine and catch his breath here," Servais said. "I walked out of the clubhouse yesterday and there were about 30 family members there, it seemed like. It was a big day for him. Hopefully he'll settle in and pitch his game a little bit more."

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.