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Mariners notebook: Returns coming into focus for RHP Shae Simmons, UT Shawn O’Malley

A forearm injury has kept Shae Simmons out of action since spring training. (AP)

The Mariners have yet to have Shae Simmons in their bullpen this season after acquiring the hard-throwing right-hander over the offseason from Atlanta. That day may be soon approaching, though.

General manager Jerry Dipoto said Simmons had a good first outing Thursday in a rehab assignment in the Arizona Rookie League coming back from a forearm flexor strain, and the velocity he reached with his fastball certainly is a good sign.

“His average velocity was 96. Felt good coming off the mound,” Dipoto said. “He’s closer than he’s been (to 100 percent) since we’ve had him in the organization, and we’re excited about that.”

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There’s no guarantee Simmons will immediately join the Mariners when his rehab assignment ends on July 17, Dipoto saying there will be a determination at that time whether he will need to continue in the minors.

Simmons was acquired from the Braves on Jan. 11 along with Mallex Smith for a pair of minor-league pitchers. Smith was traded later that day to Tampa Bay as part of the package to get Drew Smyly, while Simmons started spring training with Seattle until he experienced tightness in his forearm in mid-March. Simmons, 26, has a career 2.54 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 33 MLB games, all with Atlanta – 26 in 2014 and seven in 2016.

Another player who hasn’t been on the active roster yet this season is making progress. Utility player Shawn O’Malley, a fan favorite who grew up in the Tri Cities, is beginning his rehab assignment in the Arizona Rookie League this weekend. He first hit the disabled list due to an appendectomy in spring training, but he’s remained there after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in May.

Dipoto said that O’Malley’s progression will be a slow one due to the nature of his arm injury.

“He’ll maintain a throwing program while he gets his at-bats,” Dipoto said, noting that O’Malley will start out playing two games as a designated hitter before he sees action in the field. “Because he’s a multi-positional player, that’s something that we’re gonna have to be delicate with, particularly throwing from the left side of the field on multiple, consecutive days – but he’s gonna have to do that before he returns here.”

Dipoto estimated that O’Malley’s return to the Mariners won’t occur until August.

Notes

• Manager Scott Servais said that while nothing is set in stone, the discussed plan is for James Paxton to start the first game after the All-Star break on July 14 at the White Sox, followed by Felix Hernandez and Andrew Moore in the final two contests in Chicago. He added that Sam Gaviglio was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma after his start Wednesday because he wouldn’t be needed until the fifth day after the break, so that would make Ariel Miranda the starter in the series opener in Houston on July 17. The Mariners added Emilio Pagan from Triple-A in place of Gaviglio to have an extra option who can throw multiple innings out of the bullpen until Gaviglio is recalled.

• Jean Segura is at least four games away from qualifying for the batting title, which means it will have to come after the All-Star break. He entered Friday hitting .354 in 261 plate appearances, which would be tops in the American League by 16 points if he wasn’t 11.8 plate appearances short through 87 games for the Mariners. To qualify for the leaderboard for offensive averages like hitting, slugging and on-base percentage, players need to average at least 3.1 plate appearances per games played by their team. A pair of stints on the disabled list this season have held Segura back. He can qualify if he averages at least 5.25 plate appearances over the next four games, 4.88 over the next five or 4.62 over the next six.

• In case you missed it, Robinson Cano was added to the American League All-Star team on Friday as an injury replacement (more on that here). He is one of two Mariners heading to Miami for next week’s festivities along with Nelson Cruz. Interestingly enough, this is the first time Cano and Cruz have been named All-Stars in the same season since Cruz came to Seattle in 2015. Cruz was an All-Star along with Felix Hernandez in 2015, and Cano was the Mariners’ lone representative in 2016.