PEORIA, Ariz. -- After dealing with a stiff back for most of the past week, Mariners right-hander Brandon Maurer threw a strong bullpen session Thursday and was relieved to feel fine Friday morning as he resumes preparation for the regular season.
Maurer, 23, was scheduled to throw his first live batting practice last Friday, but was instead scratched. Several attempted returns were halted this week, as his back continued to flare up. But the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder was able to take the hill Thursday for a 36-pitch bullpen session and drew positive reviews.
"He threw really well," said trainer Rick Griffin. "[Pitching coach] Rick Waits said it was his best bullpen of the spring. He's scheduled Sunday to throw to live hitters. And after that, Rick will plug him into a game situation."
That's all music to the ears of Maurer, who is one of a handful of young pitchers competing for rotation berths this year. He went 5-8 with a 6.20 ERA in 22 games (14 starts) last year having never competed above Double-A ball before earning a starting job with a strong spring.
With experience under his belt, Maurer was ready to show what he could do this spring, but has been unable to really get started until now.
"It felt good, real good," Maurer said. "It was exciting to get back out there. It felt real free."
Maurer said he'll step right back into his throwing program and expects to be back in the flow fairly quickly.
"Spring is also a time to work out the kinks, so better now than during the season," he said.
Iwakuma out three more weeks as injured finger heals
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma won't be allowed to begin throwing for another three weeks after having his injured finger re-examined Friday in Phoenix.
Iwakuma was examined by hand specialist Dr. Donald Sheridan about two and a half weeks after reporting to camp with a sprained tendon in the middle finger on his throwing hand.
The Mariners said Sheridan reported the finger was healing well, but he recommended the splint protecting Iwakuma's injury be left on another three weeks before the righty begins throwing again. That would leave the 32-year-old only about a week before the start of the regular season.
Mariners trainer Rick Griffin said earlier Friday that Iwakuma has kept himself in good baseball condition by doing everything possible, with the exception of throwing a baseball, since he can't grip a ball with his finger in the splint.
Iwakuma, who finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting last year, injured his finger after catching it in netting while doing a pitching drill before Spring Training.
"He's basically done everything he could do and more, except throw a baseball," Griffin said. "We've simulated a lot of throwing activities. In Japan, they do a lot of towel drill exercises. He's thrown 40-pitch bullpens using a towel, working on his mechanics and balance and follow through. He's even concentrated on the inner and outer half of the plate.
"He's done real well with that. He's been doing all his conditioning, his leg and core work, a lot of shoulder exercises. He's very bored and wants to play baseball."
Griffin noted that Iwakuma's splitter -- using a wide grip between his pointer finger and middle digit -- puts more strain on the injured tendon.
"He throws a lot of splitters and that opens up that joint and puts a lot of pressure on that tendon, so that's an additional factor in dealing with this," he said.
Paxton picks up strong in spring after last September
PEORIA, Ariz. -- James Paxton knows there's been enough bad news to go around when it comes to the Mariners' rotation this spring, with Hisashi Iwakuma and now Taijuan Walker sidelined with injuries.
So going out and mowing down six straight Padres batters in his Cactus League debut Friday served as the left-hander's best response for those wondering if there's any good news coming out of camp.
"It's great to go out there and be able to do that," Paxton said. "Those guys are going to be back quick. They're working hard and I'm sure they're going to be back really soon. That will be a big plus for us. But yeah, for the guys that are pitching right now, it's good for us to get out there and show that we're not hurting."
Paxton, 25, could figure prominently in the Mariners' pitching plans after going 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four September starts last season, as long as he shows the same consistency this spring. He says he's "just trying to pick up where I left off last year." His first showing certainly reinforced that.
"Getting those four starts in September last year was big for me," Paxton said. "It was really a confidence booster, having the success that I had. That was big, and taking it into the offseason feeling good, just knowing I can go up there and do that and compete at that level, was a big plus for me."
Paxton said he threw mostly fastballs and cutters in his efficient 19-pitch outing, with just one curveball and no changeups.
"Those will come," he said. "I was just working on getting that fastball command back. I want to play with the cutter a little more to get it game ready. It was good."
Manager Lloyd McClendon was equally pleased.
"The young man has talent and he's capable of doing things," McClendon said. "He pounded the zone down and that was pretty impressive."
• Due to possible rain in Arizona, Saturday's game against the Angels originally slated to air on the MLB Network on tape delay at 1 p.m. PT is now scheduled to air on Sunday at 7 a.m.
The MLB Network will show nine Mariners games this spring on a delayed basis in the Seattle area, with the next one coming Tuesday against the Dodgers at 1 p.m.
• Veteran right-hander Matt Palmer, a 35-year-old non-roster invitee with 63 games of Major League experience with the Giants, Angels and Padres, has a sore elbow and will be sidelined for a few days.
• The Mariners have opened Cactus League play with a 2-0 record for the ninth time in team history, but the first since 1994. They also won their first two games in '81, '83, 1988-92 and '94.
"They played extremely well today," McClendon said after Friday's 12-1 win against the Padres. "I was pleased in almost all facets of the game. We ran the bases extremely well, played good solid defense and made the good decisions."
• Seattle is now 14-3-2 against the Padres in spring play since 2009.