SEATTLE (AP) -Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez will likely miss two to three starts with a muscle strain inside his right elbow and forearm.
Mariners medical director Dr. Ed Khalfayan said Thursday that the 21-year-old right-hander will not throw for five days, then will play catch.
``I think 10 to 20 days is a reasonable estimate,'' Khalfayan said when asked when Hernandez might again pitch in a game. That's as good a news as you can get from an elbow injury.''
If Hernandez continued to pitch with the strain, he could have stressed elbow so severely he would have required elbow-ligament replacement surgery.
Hernandez had allowed just four hits in 17 scoreless innings - including a one-hitter at Boston last week - before he left his start Wednesday night against Minnesota after just one-third of an inning. He allowed three runs, walked two, threw a wild pitch that scored a run, then waived trainers out to the mound to remove him from the game because of the elbow tightness.
``This is a very common pitcher injury,'' Khalfayan said. ``Felix's injury is minor. We are optimistic he won't miss too much time.''
Hernandez was in good spirits and joking in the clubhouse three hours before the game, repeatedly saying ``I'm fine,'' and then refusing to say anything else.
Manager Mike Hargrove said the team has already discussed who would start in Hernandez's absence, but he was not ready to say whom.

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