Seattle Mariners: When will Drew Smyly actually return?

Sep 7, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Drew Smyly (33) in the dugout against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Drew Smyly (33) in the dugout against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Drew Smyly’s rehab has taken longer than expected. When can the Seattle Mariners realistically expect him to be back on the mound?

No matter how you break it down, the Seattle Mariners‘ run of 11 wins in 15 games is pretty impressive. This recent surge becomes even more impressive, when you consider they have done it without the services of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly.

Brock and Salk ran a poll last week on 710 ESPN Seattle, asking which of the injured pitching trio Mariners’ fans were most eager to see return. Interestingly, Smyly came out on top.

Although you can’t use a poll to determine the feeling of an entire fanbase, the results were still interesting and surprising. It’s possible fans just believe Hernandez’s and Iwakuma’s best days are behind them, combined with the fact Smyly hasn’t actually pitched a regular season game yet for the M’s.

Regardless, it brings to mind the ongoing question of when the 28-year old will actually return to the mound? This query takes on extra significance, when considering how long he has been out of action.

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When Smyly was first sent to the 10-day disabled list at the end of March, there was significant frustration within the Mariners’ organization. This was because he suffered his left flexor strain, while pitching for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.

At the time, the diagnosis was the 2010 second round draft pick would be out for between six and eight weeks. However, we have now passed the 10-week mark since he went to the DL.

Now of course, the last thing you want is for the M’s to rush a player back, but you still have to wonder. Fortunately, there finally appears to have been some progress in Smyly’s recovery.

First, as reported by‘s Greg Johns, the Maumelle, Arkansas native threw a bullpen session last Thursday. Although it was only brief, it still represented a positive step.

This was followed by Smyly’s first real bullpen session on Saturday as he threw 22 pitches, which were all fastballs. As reported by CBS Sports, the plan is for him to throw at least five more bullpen sessions, before completing a simulated game and then embarking on his long-awaited rehab assignment.

Of course, this still doesn’t answer the question of when the former Detroit Tiger will return for the Mariners? While there is no definitive timetable at this stage, the thinking is he will rejoin the roster sometime in mid-July, following the All-Star break.

Even then, it will be intriguing to see what the M’s get from Smyly. Consider that last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, he recorded the worst ERA of his five years in the Majors, but also set a career-best for strikeouts in a season.

In general, Smyly’s 2016 campaign was up and down, starting and ending well, while looking poor in between. Regardless, we’re at the point where the Mariners just want to get him back to action, so they can find out what they have, especially with him being eligible for arbitration after this season.

Next: One step forward, two steps back for the M's

Taking all the latest available information into account, when do you realistically expect Smyly to return? Further, what type of production are you predicting from him? Share your thoughts in the comments section.