5/20/2014 8:57 P.M. ET
Sim games go well for rehabbing Paxton, Walker
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Injured Mariners pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton each threw well in a simulated game at Globe Life Park prior to Tuesday night's contest with the Rangers as both moved closer to rejoining Seattle's rotation.
Paxton threw 53 pitches over three innings against teammates in his second sim game while returning from a strained lat muscle behind his left shoulder. Walker tossed 35 pitches over two innings in his first action against live hitters since he was shut down in mid-April during a Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma.
Paxton said he was ready for the next step, a Minor League rehab stint of his own. If he made two Minor League starts and all went well, he would be ready to rejoin the Mariners in early June.
Walker is slightly behind Paxton's schedule, and the club will be extra-cautious with the 21-year-old after a spring-long issue with his shoulder, though he looked strong Tuesday and finished his session by blowing a sizzling fastball past Cole Gillespie that popped the mitt of catcher John Buck.
"Everything felt good," said Walker, who is rated the No. 6 prospect in baseball by MLB.com and No. 1 in the Mariners' system. "My mechanics felt good, everything was in sync, my balance point was good. One of the biggest things I've been working on was finishing more to keep stress off my arm, and I think I did that pretty well."
Walker now exaggerates his throwing motion at the end of his pitches to get more extension, and he said the results had been encouraging. He was also happy with his off-speed pitches Tuesday.
"I threw a couple curves that kind of hung up, but for the most part it was down," he said. "I threw a couple really sharp ones. That's something I've been working on a lot and could be a huge pitch for me."
Paxton, who went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts before going on the DL on April 8, was equally positive about what he hoped was a penultimate step before returning to game action.
"It was a step forward with my command and making pitches," the 25-year-old lefty said. "I feel pretty close. I think the next step is a rehab start, and I feel I'm ready for it, ready to get in some games and get back. It's time to step it up and get back into that game mode, so I was starting to let things go."
Mariners recall infielder Franklin; Hart to DL
ARLINGTON -- Infielder Nick Franklin, who had been playing in the outfield the past few days for Triple-A Tacoma, was recalled by the Mariners and in their lineup at designated hitter Tuesday night against the Rangers.
Manager Lloyd McClendon acknowledged Franklin was not a prototypical DH but would find some time there as well as shortstop, the outfield and occasionally at second base when Robinson Cano is given a day at DH.
"I haven't told him anything other than stay hot, swing the bat," McClendon said prior to Tuesday night's game. "Really, that's it. There are plenty of spots for guys that are swinging the bat good."
And that works for Franklin, who got just 16 at-bats and hit .125 in a previous one-week stint with the Mariners in mid-April.
"I just know I'm going to be here to contribute and do what I do best," Franklin said. "I'm ready to rock and roll and do anything that comes my way."
The Mariners opened a spot on the 25-man roster by placing designated hitter Corey Hart on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
Franklin, 23, had the top batting average in the Pacific Coast League among qualified hitters at .376, with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 30 games. The 2009 first-round Draft pick also led the PCL with a .481 on-base percentage and was third in slugging percentage at .633.
Franklin was Seattle's starting second baseman the last four months of last season, hitting .225 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs. But he lost that job when Seattle signed Cano, and he was then beat out by Brad Miller for the shortstop spot in Spring Training.
Miller has struggled so far this season, hitting .154. Franklin played 15 games at shortstop at Tacoma, nine at second base and three at designated hitter, with his last two starts in the outfield.
"I walked into the clubhouse one day and saw right field, and I said, 'Let's do it. Let's go,'" Franklin said. "As long as I was in the lineup, I was ready to go. My teammates were giving me good vibes, and the coaches were, too. There's nothing really wrong with what I'm doing out there. I'm looking to take it by the horns."
Franklin started one game in the outfield for the Mariners in his previous callup, but he was sent back to Tacoma as general manager Jack Zduriencik said he needed more regular playing time. The youngster said that paid off as he quickly regained his swing.
"The biggest thing is don't try to force things to happen," he said. "Just know that I've prepared myself for the game and there's no extra pressure on me. Just let things happen."
Hart to miss 4-6 weeks with hamstring strain
ARLINGTON -- Veteran designated hitter Corey Hart was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Mariners on Tuesday with a strained left hamstring and will be out four to six weeks, manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Hart, 32, injured his leg while stealing second base in the fourth inning of Sunday's 6-2 victory over the Twins. Hart flew back to Seattle for tests on Monday and was told he had a Grade 2 strain by Mariners medical director Dr. Edward Khalfayan.
A Grade 2 strain is in the intermediate range, with Grade 3 being the worst, but McClendon indicated Hart would be sidelined well past his eligible return date of June 3.
"My understanding is it's not good," McClendon said before Tuesday night's series opener against the Rangers.
McClendon had newly recalled infielder Nick Franklin at designated hitter on Tuesday, but he acknowledged that was not a long-term solution and that for the time being he would mix and match players at DH as best he could.
"We have to find one," he said. "We don't have one. Franklin is DHing tonight, but I think we all agree he's not a typical DH. We'll make do the best we can, just like we've done with our pitching and everything else."
Kendrys Morales, last year's DH, remains on the free-agent market as the lone unsigned player among the players given $14.1 million qualifying offers in the offseason. Morales declined Seattle's offer of a three-year, $30 million deal as well as the one-year qualifying offer, so the Mariners turned to Hart in December.
If Seattle stays in-house, a potential solution could be Jesus Montero, who was batting .269 with 32 RBIs in Triple-A Tacoma and hit his team-leading eighth home run on Monday.
Logan Morrison would also be a logical candidate, but he has been on the 15-day DL for more than a month with a strained hamstring of his own and is just now getting close to a Minor League rehab assignment.
Morrison will most likely need several weeks to get his timing back and said Tuesday he still felt awkward running after a month in the training room and that the biggest issue would be playing in the field.
Hart, a two-time National League All-Star, missed all of last season with the Brewers after having microfracture surgeries on both knees. He signed a one-year, $6 million contract in free agency with Seattle, with up to another $4.65 million in bonuses based on his number of plate appearances.
Hart was hitting .209 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 37 games while frequently batting cleanup behind Robinson Cano. The Mariners will continue looking for ways to protect Cano in the lineup, with Justin Smoak moving into that spot Tuesday.
"I think we're all going to have to pick it up a little bit," McClendon said. "And the guys have done a nice job. Smoak has done a nice job, Hart has done a nice job, [Kyle] Seager is starting to pick it up. We'd all agree we don't have that prototypical No. 4 hitter. We don't have a guy that is going to hit 40 home runs a year. We'll do the best we can."
• Rookie center fielder James Jones had at least one hit in his first 10 starts entering Tuesday night's game, tying the club record of Edgar Martinez in 1987 to open a career.
• The Mariners on Tuesday night were in the fifth game of an eight-game stretch facing right-handed starters. Seattle was 11-6 against left-handed starters but 10-16 against right-handers despite a lefty-loaded lineup.