5/8/2014 9:10 P.M. ET
Mariners aim to build on successful road trip
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- It's amazing how much a 7-2 road trip can change the feeling of a team that gains its stride over a cross-country trek from New York to Houston to Oakland, but Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said his club needs to keep pushing now as it opens a seven-game homestand against the Royals and Rays at Safeco Field.
"It's nice to be back home," McClendon said before Thursday's series opener with Kansas City. "But like I told the guys, the trip is behind us and it's time to look forward. We have a tough team coming in here and we've got to be ready to play."
The Mariners were 10-14 and in fourth place in the American League West when they set out for New York, but returned at 17-16 and in second place, two games back of the A's. Seattle has gone 10-3 over its past 13 games while hitting .251 overall and .305 with runners in scoring position after batting just .222 in its first 20 games.
That timely hitting, for a team that still ranks 13th in the AL with a .233 batting average entering Thursday's play, has helped supplement a solid pitching performance as the Mariners rank four in ERA at 3.65.
The combination has been good as the Mariners have found ways to win.
"You feel an extra buzz," said third baseman Kyle Seager. "Even if they score, we feel like we'll be able to come back. That helps the pitching staff as well. If we get off to a good lead or it's tight, they have the confidence the way they've been throwing the ball. It kind of feeds off each other. Both sides can work together and it creates a good atmosphere and less tension. Knowing we have an ability to come back definitely helps."
One hitter still searching for answers is shortstop Brad Miller, who was batting .178 going into Thursday's game after going 4-for-21 (.190) on the trip.
"He's not playing well right now, obviously," McClendon said. "He needs to step it up, and he knows that. We're trying to get him to relax and just get him to go out and play his game. This game isn't easy sometimes. He showed signs of coming out of it, he's getting a few more walks, got a couple hits. Hopefully he'll have a good game tonight and turn the page."
Young arms making their way back from injuries
SEATTLE -- Injured Mariners pitchers James Paxton and Taijuan Walker have continued progressing as they work their way back from arm injuries, with both youngsters scheduled to begin throwing bullpen sessions in the next few days.
Both pitchers played catch nearly every day while the team was on the road the previous nine days and again Thursday as the club returned for the start of a week-long homestand.
Paxton, sidelined since straining his left lat muscle in his second start of the season on April 8, threw at 120 feet on Thursday and will get back on the mound for the first time on Friday in the Safeco Field bullpen.
Walker, who dealt with a sore shoulder early in camp and then was shut down again after feeling some stiffness during his Triple-A rehab stint in Tacoma in mid-April, threw at 90 feet Thursday and is scheduled to take the mound on Sunday.
"I'm excited for that," said Walker, a 21-year-old right-hander who is ranked the No. 6 prospect in baseball by MLB.com. "This time it feels different, because everything has been going smooth. So I think this time it'll be the right one."
Walker said he felt some irritation in the shoulder at times during his previous return, but has been free and easy while playing catch the past two weeks.
Paxton also is pleased that he's felt no pain behind his shoulder while working back from the injury that halted his season after going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
"Everything is feeling great," said the 25-year-old southpaw. "No pain back there, I'm feeling strong. So I'm going to be getting on the mound and throwing pitches."
There's no firm timetable for either pitcher's return, but the typical schedule would be to throw several bullpens and then begin a Minor League rehab stint to build up the arm strength before eventually joining the big league club, which would likely mean returning sometime in June if all goes well.
The hard part for both youngsters now is sitting and watching, as both stayed behind in Seattle while the team went 7-2 on the road without them.
"Watching sucks, I definitely want to be there pitching and helping them," Walker said. "But I just want to get ready, don't rush it, but I'm throwing well so hopefully I can speed it up now and get back out there."
"It's fun right now, the guys are doing great," Paxton said. "So I'm watching the games and fist-pumping on my couch. I'd like to be doing it in the dugout, but that's coming. So it's good."
Morrison's recovery in flux after reinjuring hamstring
SEATTLE -- Outfielder/designated hitter Logan Morrison had hoped to be out on a Minor League rehab stint by now and zeroing in on a return to the Mariners, but the 26-year-old reinjured his right hamstring last week while trying to run and isn't sure now on the timeframe for his recovery.
Morrison went on the 15-day disabled list on April 15 after hitting .150 (3-for-20) in his first eight games. He was acquired from the Marlins in December in a trade for reliever Carter Capps.
Morrison said he hurt the hamstring again shortly after the Mariners headed out on their last road trip.
"It was getting better, but I was running the bases and felt it pull again, so I'm kind of back to where we were," Morrison said Thursday. "I'm in the pool and walking the treadmill and stuff like that. So I'm progressing again and hopefully soon I'll be back to running and after that back out there playing. It's been a while."
Morrison said he was still only running at about 70 percent speed when he reinjured his leg.
"We did an MRI and it actually was worse than originally diagnosed," Morrison said. "But it'll be alright, eventually."
Morrison had 23 home runs and 72 RBIs for the Marlins in 123 games in 2011, but played just 93 games in '12 and 85 in '13 while dealing with a pair of knee surgeries.
• After starting two of four games in Oakland against right-handed starters, center fielder James Jones wasn't in the lineup Thursday again against left-hander Danny Duffy, but McClendon said the rookie will see time against southpaws as he settles in.
"This kid eventually is going to be an everyday player," McClendon said. "I'm not trying to hide him from lefties. I think it's more trying to give the other kid [right-handed-hitting Cole Gillespie] in left field a shot. We called him up as well, so we want to see what he can do, too."
• The Mariners have played more road games than any AL team to date and are 12-10 in those contests. Toronto has the second-most away games at 21.