SEATTLE -- The pain right-hander Mark Lowe has felt in his lower back for almost three weeks also has been a royal pain in the neck for the Mariners' bullpen.
His absence definitely has contributed to the team's rough month.
The Mariners went into Friday night's Interleague game against the Padres at Safeco Field with a 4-14 record in May, a skid that cost Seattle eight games in the AL West standings.
Lowe made his 11th relief appearance of the season on May 2, surrendering three hits and two runs in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers.
That's the last time he pitched. He believes he hurt his back while lifting weights.
"It had to be," he said. "I didn't feel anything at the time, but when I got home that night and picked something up, my back locked up on me."
The pain persisted and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 6.
"It's driving me nuts," Lowe said of his stint on the DL. "But I can't let it get to me."
The injury was diagnosed as "lower disk inflammation" and he's already had one epidermal and might have another one next week, depending on he feels after this weekend.
"I am seeing a physical therapist in downtown Seattle three times a week and it's coming along," he said. "But I'm not ready to pitch by any means."
There is no timetable for his return.
Lowe, who will be 27 on June 7, appeared in a career-high 75 games last season and ranked fourth in the AL with 26 holds. He primarily was used as the eighth-inning setup man for closer David Aardsma.
The Mariners were 62-12 when leading after seven innings last season. They're 9-3 with the lead after seven innings so far this season.
Bard has made case to stay in lineup
SEATTLE -- The overall work of catcher Josh Bard since he was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma last week is keeping him in the Mariners lineup.
The switch-hitter was behind the plate for the Mariners' Interleague game against the Padres on Friday night, even though Rob Johnson was ready, willing and able to play.
"It's just the decision," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "He has played well, and we like what has gone on, as far as his energy and tempo back there and leadership. He's just playing well right now and you go with the guy who's playing well."
Bard went 2-for-2 in Thursday afternoon's victory over the Blue Jays. He also walked and contributed a game-tying sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, preceding Ken Griffey Jr.'s walk-off single.
"In Rob's defense, he had a great offensive day in Oakland, but for everything we're looking for right now, Josh is the guy who's showing us that," Wakamatsu said. "He's had great at-bats both left-handed and right-handed since he has been here. I just like the tempo he's setting with the pitching staff right now."
Bradley comfortable since return
SEATTLE -- Outfielder Milton Bradley has been a model citizen since his return.
He has been cordial on and off the field, making himself available to the media before and after games and maintaining his composure at all times.
"From what I see, he's trying to control the emotion and not be so hard on himself," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I see a guy who is enjoying the game and that's all we're asking. I know that's important to him."
Bradley spent two weeks on the restricted list for professional assistance in dealing with anger issues. He is such a perfectionist that he had trouble dealing with adversity.
He went into Friday night's game against the Padres with two hits in seven at-bats since returning to the lineup.
"He's given us some good at-bats," Wakamatsu said. "The very first at-bat he had, I think he saw 96- and 95-mph pitches, then a nasty changeup and he struck out. I thought he was on all those pitches and barely missed them.
"I like the interaction that's going on right now and it adds one more threat in the lineup that helps us."
Ichiro Suzuki went into Friday night's game with a .340 career batting average in Interleague Play, the third-highest in the Majors. His 233 hits against NL teams are the most since 2001. ... Ken Griffey Jr., who was not in the lineup on Friday night, currently ranks second all-time with 55 Interleague Play home runs. Only Jim Thomas has more, with 56.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.