Zych's recovery takes promising step forward

Zych's recovery takes promising step forward

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A year ago at this time, Tony Zych was primed to be a key member of the Mariners' bullpen as a hard-throwing rookie who flashed considerable promise in the final month of the 2015 season.

But after an injury-plagued 2016, Zych is just now working his way back from bicep tendon transfer surgery in his right shoulder in October, and he took a promising step on Tuesday morning when he threw off a bullpen mound for the first time since the operation.

"It's a big thing for me," said the 26-year-old right-hander. "Everything felt great. It took a few throws to kind of get comfortable and obviously I wasn't trying to do too much. Just hit the glove and feel good about it."

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Zych threw 20 pitches at about 85 percent effort and expects to toss his next bullpen session in another two or three days as the rehab progresses. The hope is that he could be ready to get into games sometime around the start of the season if all goes well, but for now he's just taking it day by day.

Zych threw in 12 games for the Mariners in the first month last season, then went on the disabled list. He tried a late-season return and pitched in back-to-back games in late August before being shut down again. He'll try to listen to his body more this year rather than pushing too fast.

"Half those guys out there [watching him throw] said they had a shock collar for me in case I started ramping it up," Zych said. "It's a hard thing for me. But with growing up and maturing, hopefully, I can learn how to do those things better. But in a game, I don't know if I'll be able to tone it down too much."

Steve Cishek, the club's other rehabbing reliever, has yet to throw off a mound as he recovers from microfracture hip surgery. But he's playing catch on a regular basis and "continues to progress," according to manager Scott Servais.

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.