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Mariners lefty Drew Smyly scratched from scheduled simulated game after a setback

Drew Smyly pitched well in the World Baseball Classic earlier this month. (Alex Gallardo/The Associated Press)

Drew Smyly’s return to the Mariners’ starting rotation — optimistically projected to be after the All-Star break — has been sidetracked.

Smyly was scheduled to face hitters for the first time since spring training in a simulated game on Wednesday at Safeco Field. But that plan has been scratched after Smyly’s arm didn’t feel right in his previous bullpen session.

“He had a little setback,” pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. “It’s a little bit of discomfort.”

After making a brilliant start for the United States in the World Baseball Classic early in spring training, Smyly began to feel fatigue and stiffness in his left forearm/elbow area in the Cactus League starts that followed. He was scratched from his final start of the spring and placed on the disabled list with a strained flexor. As part of the recovery, he received a platelet rich plasma injection into the injured area and was shut down from throwing for eight weeks. He’d been on a steady progression once he was cleared to start his throwing program. He’d thrown a handful of bullpens in recent weeks, ramping up the intensity with each outing. The next step was to face hitters. But that process hit a snag.

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“He’s had a couple episodes, some discomfort and tightness when he throws his breaking ball in his bullpens,” Stottlemyre said. “His fastball has been good. Everything looked good throwing, but he just said he didn’t feel comfortable. It just wasn’t feeling right.”

Smyly was allowed to arrive later Tuesday’s pregame workout and was unavailable for comment before the clubhouse was closed. He was also scheduled to meet with Mariners’ team doctors. For now, all he can do is get treatment on the arm and hope to resume his throwing program.

“Until the doctors check, and all that stuff subsides, you just can’t move forward,” Stottlemyre said. “It’s hard to make a plan going forward until we know more.”

With Hisashi Iwakuma still battling shoulder tightness and fatigue and not ready to return to the rotation any time soon, Seattle will stay with James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Ariel Miranda, Sam Gaviglio and likely Andrew Moore when a fifth starter is needed next week.

But with Smyly’s latest setback and Iwakuma’s uncertainty going forward, the need to add another starting pitcher before the trade deadline has increased. With the Mariners only two games out of the second wild card coming into Tuesday’s game, they’ve been able to keep themselves in a position for a spot in the postseason despite massive injuries already this season. But it’s unlikely that they can maintain that pace without some help in the rotation.