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Mariners notebook: Jerry Dipoto has a new appreciation for Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano went 5 for 15 with two homers during the first three games of Seattle's four-game win streak. (AP)
LISTEN: Jerry Dipoto on James Paxton's return to the Mariners

Jerry Dipoto has always admired Robinson Cano, whether it was when he was in the front offices of opposing MLB teams or in a more personal manner since becoming Mariners general manager in 2015. But even now, he’s still finding news ways to appreciate Seattle’s 34-year-old All-Star second baseman.

The latest, Dipoto told “Danny, Dave and Moore” on Wednesday, has to do with the way the Mariners recently played while Cano was on the 10-day disabled list with a quad strain.

“Never gained more of an appreciation for what he does than when looking at what the team played like when he was not out there,” Dipoto said. “Really glad that we have him, really glad that he’s currently healthy and really glad that he’s swinging the bat well.”

Stecker: Better days arrive for Mariners pitching staff

What the Mariners did while Cano was injured was, quite simply, not play well. The offense that had been among the more formidable in the American League with Cano in his usual No. 3 spot stalled to a halt without him. In the first four of 11 games Cano missed, the M’s scored just six runs. In the final three, they were in the midst of a five-game stretch in which they scored just one run each contest.

Dipoto didn’t mince words about what happened to the Mariners with Cano out of action.

“Over the course of the last three weeks, we went through a 14-, 15-game stretch where we were scoring just north of two runs a game and throwing up a team OPS in the .500 range, which is – anemic is the right way to put it,” he said. “We were throwing out two weeks straight of games with anemic offensive production, and it just so happens that during that 14-game stretch, Robinson Cano is sitting on the sideline. … We went from (the American League leader in runs scored) to one of the worst offensive teams in the league for a two-week stretch simply by missing Robinson Cano.”

It took both Cano and the Mariners a few days to re-adjust after he returned early last week, but the three-game win streak they brought to start their homestand Wednesday is pretty good proof they’re back to their old ways. The Mariners scored 21 combined runs in that trio of contests, with Cano driving the bus by going 5 for 15 with a pair of homers, a double, four RBIs and four runs scored.

“As soon as he came back, you saw the rest of the lineup really start to apply themselves again, and here in these last three or four days as he’s started to swing the bat better, the offense is picking up,” Dipoto said. “Clearly between Robbie and Nelson Cruz, most specifically, those guys drive the offense. And when they are out there and they’re swinging the bat well, it makes a world of difference. The appreciation that I’ve gained from watching what Nelson and Robbie specifically do for the rest of that lineup is huge.”

Notes

• After a successful bullpen session in Denver on Tuesday, Felix Hernandez is working his way up to a couple of innings in a simulated game, which manager Scott Servais said will happen either Friday or Saturday at Safeco Field. Servais also said Hernandez will “most likely” need two rehab starts in the minors before returning to the Mariners’ active roster from the DL for shoulder bursitis. As for Tuesday’s bullpen, Servais was still raving about it. “Felix was very good. Better than I was expecting. He did throw all of his pitches instead of just fastball, changeup. Throwing a bullpen in Colorado can be challenging, just to get the ball to move and do what he does. (Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.) said it looked great, so very good report there.”

• Hisashi Iwakuma, who is also on the DL with a shoulder issue and had a bullpen Tuesday, is progressing, though Servais said he remains behind Hernandez in his timetable for return. “He did not throw all of his pitches but he did feel much better as well,” Servais said of Iwakuma’s bullpen.

• Mitch Haniger could head out early next week on a rehab assignment as he continues to recover from an oblique injury. “Probably looking at Friday, Saturday, Sunday BP on the field,” Servais said of Haniger. “If that gets revved up, he’ll possibly go out on a rehab on Monday.”

• James Paxton makes his return from a DL stint for a forearm strain Wednesday night against the Rockies. You can see Seattle’s full lineup for the 7:10 game on 710 ESPN Seattle in this post.