SEA@LAA: Paxton strikes out nine over seven scoreless

SEATTLE -- Rookie southpaw James Paxton threw 53 pitches in a three-inning simulated game against Mariners teammates on Saturday, and he now is expected to advance to a Minor League rehab start with Class A Everett on Thursday.

Paxton said he'll need to check out OK on Sunday before getting cleared to move forward, but said he felt great while facing teammates Dustin Ackley, Willie Bloomquist and Jesus Sucre in his second sim game situation.

The 25-year-old has been dealing with shoulder issues since straining his left lat muscle in his second start on April 8 against the Angels. He worked his way through the rehab process once already, but then was shut down again after more soreness cropped up following a three-inning start for Triple-A Tacoma in late May.

"Everything feels good," Paxton said after throwing all his pitches during Saturday's workout. "It's just one step at a time in getting my stuff back to where it needs to be to pitch here. But I think with a couple rehab starts and a little more refinement and a couple [bullpen sessions], it'll be good to go."

Everett hosts Salem-Keizer on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. PT, and Paxton lines up for that start, while Taijuan Walker is scheduled to throw the same day for Tacoma at Reno before he rejoins Seattle's rotation following the All-Star break.

"It'll be fun to get in game situations again and face some different-colored jerseys," said Paxton, who likely will throw three innings if all goes well.

Paxton is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts this season, and 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in six starts for Seattle since making his Major League debut last September.

Sucre to get more regular time behind plate

Jesus Sucre will likely play about two games a week going forward.

SEATTLE -- Catcher Jesus Sucre replaced Mike Zunino in the starting lineup on Saturday for the first time since being called up on Tuesday, teaming with Hisashi Iwakuma as the Mariners faced the A's in the second game of their series.

The 23-year-old Zunino had the sixth-most innings played of any catcher in the Major Leagues going into Saturday's games at 662 2/3 and manager Lloyd McClendon acknowledged he's had a little heavier workload than the club would like for such a young player.

"Obviously we played him a little more than we probably wanted to early on, but he's fine," McClendon said. "And he's done a nice job for us."

Sucre, who caught the last four innings of Wednesday's 8-1 loss to the Twins, will likely play about two games a week going forward. McClendon likes Sucre's defensive prowess and said he wasn't concerned at all with matching him with Iwakuma and his nasty splitter.

"He's not a stranger to Kuma," McClendon said. "He caught him in Spring Training. He knows him. He won't have any hiccups."

Worth noting

• Entering Saturday, Seattle's .260 batting average since June 1 was the sixth-best in the AL and ninth in the Majors during that span. The Mariners were hitting .233 through May 31, but raised that to .244 going into Saturday's game.

• After beating the A's, 3-2, on Friday, the Mariners' record against teams with a .500-or-better record at the time they played improved to 24-13, while they're .26-30 against teams with losing records. Seattle entered Saturday 14-9 against teams currently in playoff position.