Felix Hernandez and James Paxton poised to return to the Mariners’ rotation after successful simulated games

Scott Servais paused for a moment and thought about the question. The Mariners manager was asked to give his thoughts on the two-inning simulated games that James Paxton and Felix Hernandez had just completed on Friday afternoon.

Instead of giving a static answer about how the ball looked coming out of their hand or pitch command, Servais replied: “I realized how much I miss them. That’s the first thing that came to mind.”

But Servais may not have to miss them for much longer. Both pitchers came out of their two simulated innings of work ready with no health issues and appear ready to pitch in games.

“Very encouraging, positive signs and both guys look on track to get in the rotation next week,” he said.

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Paxton threw two innings of 20 pitches, facing an assortment of hitters, including Taylor Motter, Jacob Hannemann and Daniel Vogelbach.

“I felt good,” he said. “No issues with the (pectoral muscle). Rhythm felt pretty good. I dialed some pitches in there towards the end and threw some good cutters. I got my curveball over toward the end, which was good to feel and see. Overall it was a good day.”

Paxton ramped up the intensity on his last 10 pitches. It was noticeable in the fastball and the hitters’ swings to it.

“I felt like I wasn’t restricted at all,” he said.

Paxton had been one of the most productive pitchers in baseball before the pectoral strain sent him to the DL on Aug. 11. He was 12-3 with a 2.78 ERA at the time and dominating hitters.

“It was coming out really easy for him,” Servais said. “He looked real comfortable.”

Hernandez, who went on the disabled list on Aug. 5 with bursitis in his shoulder, threw two innings and a total of 35 pitches — 16 in the first inning and 19 in the second.

“I thought Felix’s second inning was much better than his first,” Servais said. “He was more comfortable with getting down the hill. He was extending and finishing his pitches better.”

Hernandez had a similar assessment.

“I felt good, he said. “Everything was down, command was just OK. I was too quick. But I settled down and the end I was much better. Shoulder is good.”

Perhaps the most entertaining aspect was when Vogelbach ambushed a fastball and hit a towering homer into the third deck of right field,…

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