Top Prospects: Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners

SEATTLE -- Danny Hultzen, the Mariners' top left-handed pitching prospect, threw three simulated innings prior to Saturday's game at Safeco Field as he continued working on a revamped arm motion designed to alleviate the pressure on his left arm.

Hultzen threw only 35 2/3 innings in seven games this season while dealing with shoulder problems. But he faced teammates Abraham Almonte, Carlos Triunfel, Humberto Quintero and Henry Blanco and threw 51 pitches as general manager Jack Zduriencik, manager Eric Wedge, pitching coach Carl Willis and trainer Rick Griffin watched closely from behind the batting cage.

Hultzen, 23, threw two scoreless frames for Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday in his first live action since June and now will head to Instructional League and then the Arizona Fall League to continue working his way back.

"I'm just glad to be pitching again," said the 2011 first-round Draft pick. "I've spent too much time sitting on the bench watching, so I was glad to be back out there today."

Before starting his session, Hultzen drew a straight line on the mound in front of the pitching rubber toward home plate as a reminder of where he wants his front foot to land on his delivery.

"I had an issue of stepping really far across my body," he said. "That probably put a lot of stress on my shoulder. If you're throwing that far across your body, I'm not saying it was the cause of what happened, but it could have been. We watched video from college and I was a lot straighter then. Still across my body, but there was a big difference from what it was in college and how I was throwing at the beginning of this year."

The Mariners brass was pleased with what they saw Saturday.

"He looked free and easy," said Zduriencik. "This is good for him to get back out there. Continued steps."

With James Paxton making his first Major League start on Saturday night on the heels of Taijuan Walker's recent debut, Zduriencik and Wedge said it's encouraging to start thinking of what lies ahead with the promising pitching group.

And despite his largely lost season, Hultzen now is itching to get back into that mix and is encouraged by his latest steps on the mound.

"It gives me something to build off," he said. "I have the opportunity now to go down to Arizona and get a lot better as a baseball player. That's the way I'm looking at it. It's kind of what I've learned from this experience, to not take anything for granted. I know that sounds kind of sappy, but when you're healthy and having fun, you take that for granted sometimes. When it's taken away real quick like that, it kind of puts it in perspective."

Capps' pickoff critical in victory over Rays

TB@SEA: Capps picks off Rodriguez in the eighth

SEATTLE -- While Carter Capps struggled through a tough eighth inning in Friday's 6-4 win over the Rays, the hard-throwing right-hander helped himself considerably by picking pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez off second base after Tampa Bay had put two on with no out to start the frame.

Capps wound up allowing two runs on two hits and two walks, but got out of the inning in a 4-4 tie and emerged as the winning pitcher when Justin Smoak delivered a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth.

Capps credited shortstop Brad Miller with helping pull off the pickoff of Rodriguez, who'd been inserted to pinch-run after James Loney drew a leadoff walk.

"Miller called it and played it off well," Capps said. "He was there and luckily the throw was, too. I think the guy was in a big secondary lead, waiting for a bunt with no outs and runners on first and second. I assume he was bunting. I guess the guy just got a little too happy on second. It was a great call by Miller and it paid off."

Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Capps deserved credit as well for his excellent move.

"It's a combination," Wedge said. "It has to start with Carter, but Brad has to feel it and be there, too. They did a nice job with it. He does a nice job with that. We've seen him do that a few times and almost get somebody. Last night it really paid off for us."

Rays skipper Joe Maddon wasn't nearly as thrilled by the play as his team is fighting for a playoff berth and suffered several critical breakdowns in Friday's loss.

"A lot of negative things can happen," Maddon said. "You can strike out with the bases loaded, you can hang a slider, you can do a lot of different things. But you can't get picked off second base. That's the only thing that really bothered me about all of that.

"I mean people make errors, they swing at pitches in the dirt, etc. But the one part of the game that upset me was that. I'm just being honest. Because there was no play on. There was nothing on, that was straight-up baseball."

Farquhar rolling as Mariners' new closer

TB@SEA: Farquhar retires Myers to earn the save

SEATTLE -- New Mariners closer Danny Farquhar has been outstanding since replacing Tom Wilhelmsen at the start of August, to the point where his 13 saves since Aug. 3 are the most of any Major League reliever in that span.

Farquhar, 25, is 13-for-14 in save opportunities after finishing out Friday's 6-4 win over the Rays.

Though his ERA for the season is 4.28 in 38 games, the rookie right-hander has a 1.76 ERA in 15 1/3 innings since taking over as closer and has exhibited steely nerves with games on the line.

"I like the way he mixes his pitches," said manager Eric Wedge. "I like the way he uses his fastball, his cutter and breaking ball. He's aggressive, he pitches with a lot of confidence. And if he does get himself in a situation, he doesn't overreact. Those are a lot of good things."

The 5-foot-9 Farquhar, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Ichiro Suzuki trade last year, is fourth in the Majors with his average of 13.22 strikeouts per nine innings with 71 in 48 1/3 innings since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma on May 17.

Worth noting

Felix Hernandez threw on flat ground on Saturday and will do a bullpen session Monday in preparation for his next start Wednesday afternoon against the Astros at Safeco Field. Hernandez originally was slated to start Sunday, but the Mariners pushed that back to Wednesday after his back cramped up during his last start Monday in Kansas City.

• Sunday's 1:10 p.m. PT game against the Rays will be broadcast on 770-AM (KTTH) radio because of a conflict with the Seahawks game on 710 ESPN Seattle. The game will be televised live as normal on ROOT Sports.

• When James Paxton starts on Saturday night, he will become the third Mariners pitcher to make his MLB debut this season, along with Taijuan Walker and Brandon Maurer. Seattle also had three pitchers make their debuts in 2011 with Michael Pineda, Blake Beavan and Anthony Vasquez. The franchise record is four pitching debuts in 1993 (John Cummings, Mike Hampton, Jim Converse and Roger Salkeld).

• Left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and added to the Mariners roster shortly before Saturday's game. The 27-year-old pitched four games for Seattle in two stints earlier this year with a 16.88 ERA in 2 2/3 innings. He was 6-0 with five saves and a 3.39 ERA in 45 appearances for Tacoma.