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Injury returns should start coming this week for Mariners, and they need them with upcoming schedule

Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez could bookend a series of key Mariners returns from injury soon. (AP)

After dropping three of four to the Chicago White Sox over the weekend, the Seattle Mariners look like a team that could stand to acquire upgrades in a few key positions. And while this isn’t something that’s been said about the M’s much this season, they are, in fact, in luck.

A progression of players currently on the disabled list should begin to return to the team beginning this week, with All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano likely to be the first when Seattle starts a series in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Outfielder Mitch Haniger, who is expected to start a minor league rehab assignment early this week, could return a few days later, while southpaw James Paxton is in line to be back during the Mariners’ next homestand. Right-hander Felix Hernandez may not far behind him, either.

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For general manager Jerry Dipoto, it sounds like a cure for what it currently holding his team back, though at five games under .500 the Mariners have actually done a commendable job of keeping themselves from falling into too big of a hole with all those players out of action.

“You think about it, maybe we need a left-hand ace, a stud rookie in right field, a Hall of Famer at second base and the best pitcher in the history of the franchise. They start rolling back and then we feel like we have a pretty good chance at recovering because the rest of our team really is doing quite well,” Dipoto said last Thursday in his weekly interview with “Danny, Dave and Moore” on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Though the M’s have been able to keep from falling off the map, there is danger ahead with their next 16 games coming against teams that all entered Monday with a record of .500 or better. That will include three games against the NL East-leading Nationals (26-17), four games with the NL West-leading Rockies (28-17), and a three-game set hosting the AL Central-leading Twins (22-18), making the injury returns all the more urgent.

“In spite of the fact that we’re losing players left and right, we’ve somehow managed to hang in … (but) it’s only gonna get tougher from here, because while we are expecting to get Haniger back next week and we do expect to get Cano back next week and we do expect to get Pax back by the end of the month, we are also in a situation where we are playing short-handed and we’re going in to play a variety of first-place and playoff-type teams over the next two weeks,” Dipoto said. “We’re gonna have to dig down and find a way to compete because the key for us right now is hovering.

“We’re probably not gonna make up a lot of ground on the (AL West-leading) Astros and we’re probably not gonna shoot to the top of the wild-card standings, but we have to find a way of splitting each two-game set over the course of time so that we can hang in there until the cavalry gets here.”