Sasaki eager to return, but Mariners won't rush him

Updated: September 3, 2003, 10:31 PM ET news services

EVERETT, Wash. -- Seattle Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki says he's ready to come off the disabled list. However, the Mariners have no plans to rush their valuable reliever back.

"My body is 100 percent ready," Sasaki told The Herald of Everett Tuesday night after his fourth minor-league rehabilitation outing. "I feel great. I'm ready to go back."

In Tuesday night's game, Sasaki's fastball hit 90 mph when he pitched one inning for the Class-A Everett AquaSox, but gave up two home runs to Yakima. It was his top velocity in any of his rehab assignments.

"His fastball was decent, not spectacular, but he located well," Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price told the Seattle Times. "His curve and splitter were good. Sometimes a pitcher is more vulnerable in A-ball or rookie ball than here. We have to think what is best in the long term to get him back to speed."

Sasaki will continue his rehab in the minors. After meeting with Mariners manager Bob Melvin on Thursday in Cleveland, Sasaki will throw in the bullpen. He will throw long toss on Friday and fly back to Seattle on Saturday, according to the Times. Then he will pitch for Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday.

Sasaki, 35, has been on the disabled list since June 11 with two fractured ribs and a slightly torn abdominal muscle that he suffered when he fell while carrying his luggage.

When the Mariners activate Sasaki, they plan to use him in non-save situations before he returns to the closer role. Shigetoshi Hasegawa has been serving as the Mariners' closer in Sasaki's absence.

However, the Mariners acquired hard-throwing Armando Benitez from the Yankees on Wednesday for Jeff Nelson. Benitez has 21 saves this season -- all with the Mets before he was shipped to the Yankees.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.