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When will Andres Munoz return to Mariners bullpen this season?

We’ve got the latest updates for Andres Munoz and when he’ll return in 2023.

Andres Munoz of the Seattle Mariners pitches during the eighth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at T-Mobile Park on April 02, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

A healthy pitching staff was an integral part of the Seattle Mariners’ feel-good run to the postseason last year, but so far the 2023 season isn’t playing out the same way. The team placed Andres Munoz — its highest-leverage reliever and owner of one of baseball’s most electric fastballs — on the injured list with a right deltoid strain on Sunday. The 24-year-old first started experiencing discomfort following his outing Friday against the Cleveland Guardians.

Munoz was sensational in 2022, posting a 2.49 ERA with a whopping 96 strikeouts in 65 innings. He allowed Seattle manager Scott Servais to operate without a traditional closer, instead mixing and matching with Paul Sewald and Diego Castillo based on matchups. Munoz is a key part of the Mariners’ winning formula, but when might he be able to return to the fold?

Andres Munoz injury update

June 3 Update — Munoz started a rehab assignment last week and pitched a perfect fourth inning for the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma. He is expected to make a few more rehab appearances, but could be returning in the next week or two to the big league club.

May 17 Update — Munoz recently received a PRP shot last week for his shoulder and isn’t expected to make a rehab start until the end of May, barring any setbacks.

April 14 update — Munoz has already resumed throwing, and it sounds like he could return before long:

He’ll still need to ramp up to throwing off a mound, but it shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks. Paul Sewald has been great as Seattle’s closer in Munoz’s absence.

April 10 update — Servais told reporters that images didn’t find anything structurally wrong with the reliever’s shoulder, which is good news, but added that he hadn’t been feeling great over the last few days and started to experience pain in the back of his throwing shoulder.

Seattle had tried to be careful with its star reliever, opting not to use him on back-to-back in an effort to let him ramp up slowly. Pitchers will be pitchers, though — especially ones that can crack 100 mph on the radar gun — and Munoz will hope that rest and rehab will allow his shoulder to get back to full strength. Servais added that the team is “playing the long game” here, and given the delicacy surrounding shoulder injuries, it certainly sounds like Munoz will be out for multiple weeks at the least.

Paul Sewald is more than capable of filling Munoz’s role, but the question of who takes over for Sewald as Seattle’s 1B is dicier. Matt Brash would seem to be the first man up, and while the former starter has electric stuff, his iffy command has gotten him into trouble in the past. (Sure enough, Brash melted down en route to a blown save in Sunday’s loss in Cleveland.) He’s a name to add in leagues that count holds, but that’s about it.