For Aaron Harang to extend his Major League career, his body needs to hold up and his pitches must remain sharp. Both of those areas have presented challenges to the 35-year-old veteran this season.
The right-hander will start Monday at Safeco Field opposite Padres lefty Clayton Richard. The meeting is the first of a four-game home-and-home series San Diego and Seattle will engage in this week.
Harang's most recent outing came on the road last Tuesday against the Angels. In 3 2/3 innings, he gave up seven runs on nine hits while striking out four. That appearance was the first for Harang in two weeks, as tightness in his lower back forced him to miss the prior start.
"It's a matter of him throwing the fastball where he needs to throw it, first and foremost," manager Eric Wedge said Sunday. "Then his secondary stuff is going to be there. He just needs to be more consistent with his delivery and release point and throwing the baseball where he wants to. It's not a matter of stuff."
Before the discomfort, Harang turned in back-to-back quality starts to begin May. On the season, he's 1-5 with an 8.58 ERA.
"I think it's just a matter of getting the repetition," Harang said. "I've had these stints off that, as a pitcher to stay sharp, you have to keep throwing. Obviously that hinders you. So it's just a matter of being out there and throwing my pitches and get my feel back. Obviously I had to take a few extra days off and not even pick up a ball, and it's tough to get into game speed when you're just throwing bullpens. I just have to keep grinding. I know I can get back to where I need to be. It's just a matter of getting the repetitions and muscle memory back."
Health problems have afflicted the other starter in Monday's matchup, too. For Richard, it will be his first outing since May 4. A day later, he was on the disabled list with an intestinal virus.
"I'm definitely excited to be back with the team and I'm ready to pitch when I get the opportunity to," Richard said recently. "Everything has been going well and I've been feeling good. That's the reason for everything, to start feeling better, and it feels good to be on the right track."
On Friday, Richard threw a bullpen session. In two rehab starts with Triple-A Tucson, he went 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA. In 12 innings, he racked up 12 strikeouts without issuing a walk.
"It was good to have a couple of outings and get that feeling back," Richard said. "I'm really excited to be a part of it again."
In six starts this year, Richard is 0-4 with an 8.54 ERA.
Padres: Gyorko racking up the homers
• Jedd Gyorko is turning heads with his ability to hit the long ball. He already has five home runs in May, which ties the Padres' rookie record for homers in that month.
"I consider myself a gap-to-gap hitter, and if I get a hold of one, I have enough power to get it out," Gyorko said. "It comes back to getting back to a basic approach. In April, I wasn't hitting the ball with much authority, and this month I've been able to get my timing together."
In 47 games, Gyorko is batting .269 with five homers and 16 RBIs.
"I'm just trying to put the ball in play and battle with two strikes," Gyorko said. "The best way not to strike out is to not to get to two strikes, so I try to be aggressive early in the count. Hopefully, I can get my pitch and try to put a barrel on it."
• In his last 10 games, Carlos Quentin is hitting .306 (11-for-36) with four doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs.
Mariners: Smoak sidelined with oblique strain
Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak did not start Sunday after straining his right oblique in Saturday's game.
"Hopefully it's nothing too crazy," said Smoak, who has hit .286 over his last 25 games and is second on the club in on-base percentage this season at .352. "I've done it before. It was bad last time, so it's not as bad like that. It's just a little tight. I felt like I had to say something. I didn't want to because it happened my first at-bat and I still got some more at-bats in.
"But I'm feeling it in my right side. I did it swinging right-handed, trying to stop. So I don't know. It's just a little tight. Hopefully we can just give it a couple days and everything will be all right."
Kendrys Morales will be the club's primary first baseman during Smoak's absence, though Michael Morse has experience playing the position as well. In 45 games, Smoak is hitting .242 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
• The Mariners hold the edge in the all-time series, 45-41.
• San Diego has dropped four of the past five games. Seattle has lost eight of the previous nine.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.