© 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

06/13/11 9:38 PM ET

Aardsma takes first step toward return

SEATTLE -- It wasn't much -- only five minutes of playing catch, 30 throws from 60 feet. But for Mariners closer David Aardsma, who hasn't pitched in a big league game since last Sept. 19, it was a lot.

Aardsma, who missed the last two weeks of 2010 and all of Spring Training because of a hip problem that was corrected by surgery in the offseason, hadn't thrown a baseball since spraining the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma last month.

He did so in the Safeco Field outfield on Monday and said things went about as smoothly as they could have gone.

"Obviously, you're trying to think positively about everything," said Aardsma, who saved 31 games last year and 38 in 2009. "You're going to have your reservations, but it went well. I'm not sitting there thinking about every throw, but it's hard not to. We weren't pushing it."

Aardsma said he'll take a day off from throwing before trying again Wednesday.

"We'll go from there," he said. "Maybe we'll try to push it a little more, but it will just be a progression."

Mariners' Pauley making case for All-Star bid

SEATTLE -- With the July 12 All-Star Game now less than a month away, at least one Mariners player will pack his bags for Phoenix to play with the best of them.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more qualified candidate than pitcher David Pauley.

The starter-turned-reliever has been among the league's best in relief. Part of an impressive Seattle bullpen, entering Monday, Pauley ranked first among American League relievers with a 0.96 ERA and also led the league in innings with 37 1/3.

For now, though, the Colorado native hasn't given much thought to an All-Star selection.

"If it happens, it'd be an awesome thing," said Pauley, who was 4-0 with a 0.59 ERA since April 18. "If not, I'm not going to be disappointed or anything like that. My job doesn't change one way or another."

Pauley, who turns 28 this Friday, came to Spring Training in contention for the fifth starting spot, as he was 4-9 last season with a 4.07 ERA. But with the Mariners needing more help in the bullpen, Pauley began this season as a reliever for the first time in his career.

And though he could clearly fill that fifth spot if injuries begin piling up, it seems as though Pauley is hitting his stride in relief.

"I think I've really just tried to take the same mentality as when I was a starter and go out and throw strikes and use all my pitches," he said.

Eight AL pitchers (five starters and three relievers) will be chosen by the players, coaches and managers for the All-Star roster. Then, Texas manager Ron Washington, this year's AL skipper, will fill eight spots on his own after the player and fan voting.

Middle relievers haven't always been the most popular choice for the Midsummer Classic, but in the past few years, more relievers have been selected to All-Star teams. If Pauley keeps his pitching up for the next month, don't be surprised to see him representing the Mariners.

Wedge pleased with progress of Ichiro's swing

SEATTLE -- Ichiro Suzuki could only laugh and shake his head as his last batting-practice swing produced a towering blast that ricocheted off the windows of the Hit It Here Cafe high above the right-field bleachers in Safeco Field. His teammates oohed and aahed.

In other words, the Mariners are back home, and maybe Ichiro is back, too.

The right fielder, whose slump through late April and all of May continued into June, prompting his first night off in 255 games on Friday, has responded since then. He went 2-for-4 with a triple and a run scored on Saturday against the Tigers and 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored in Sunday's win in Detroit. His batting average for the season climbed to only .258, but it's a start, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he's noticed some positive developments in his leadoff hitter's swing.

"He's a tough one to critique," Wedge said. "But I think he's in a better position to hit the baseball. I've always watched him from the other side, but to watch him every day, the difference is that I think he's in a better position, I think his balance is a little bit better, and I think he's maybe seeing the ball a little bit better.

"Having said that, he could be none of the above and still get his hits. That's what makes it tough. But ultimately, but when you talk about hitting four or five times a night, there's got to be certain things that you need to do to put yourself in a position to do. ... The more times you hit the ball hard, the more hits you're going to get. So I think he's moving in the right direction."

Worth noting

• Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo has hit 10 home runs this season, and entering Monday's game, he was tied for first in the Major Leagues with Toronto's J.P. Arencibia and Texas' Mike Napoli in home runs by a catcher. Olivo is on pace to hit 24 homers this year, which would be a career high. He hit 23 in 2009 for Kansas City. The Mariners club record for homers by a catcher is 18, shared by Kenji Johjima (2006) and Dan Wilson (1996).

• The Mariners have had eight rookies appear in a game this season, which is tied for third most in the American League and tied for sixth in the Majors. Rookies Carlos Peguero, Michael Pineda, Greg Halman and Mike Carp are currently on the roster, and Tom Wilhelmsen, Josh Lueke, Mike Wilson and Dan Cortes previously saw action with the Mariners this season.

• In the last nine games before Monday, the Mariners had scored 22 of their 32 runs in the sixth inning or later, including 15 of their 32 in the eighth inning or later. Seattle has outscored its opponents 15-8 from the eighth inning on since June 4.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.