SEATTLE -- Going into Monday, the writing in small print under Chone Figgins' name in the Mariners' game notes said the third baseman had raised his batting average 61 points in the last 14 games. Granted, it went from .160 to .221, but he's hit in 11 of those 14 games, and has gone 18-for-59 (.305).
Figgins, who has been streaky at the plate over the years, said he feels a lot better than he did while struggling at the beginning of 2010. He attributed his early slumping to poor pitch selection and a small case of hard-hit balls occasionally finding fielders' gloves.
"Some balls are falling in more," Figgins said. "But at first, I was taking too many swings. I was a little erratic with putting balls in play, where I could have waited until the next pitch. Now, I'm not swinging at every pitch, and I'm just not putting every ball in play.
"A lot of times, with being a contact hitter, I put a lot of balls in play -- pitches I could take. And as a result, it gets me out when I could stay alive until the next pitch. A lot of times, what happens is, I'm not ready to hit or I'm overly aggressive because I don't want to be passive. Hitting balls hard and hitting it off the barrel is usually not a problem for me. My selection is the problem -- being not aggressive enough or too aggressive."
Figgins also said he occasionally falls into a pattern of thinking he can hit ground balls and beat the play to first base. But that's not his game.
"That's his game," he said, pointing to teammate Ichiro Suzuki. "When I went to the Angels, [hitting coach] Mickey [Hatcher] noticed that I'm not the fastest guy from home to first because of the way I hit, so I shouldn't try to beat out choppers and slow rollers. He told me to drive the ball through the infield, because I hit the ball hard.
"I've kept that in mind, but sometimes it's easy to forget."
Wedge sticking with League
SEATTLE -- Safeco Field has a roof, which has eliminated the possibility of rainouts in Seattle. That meant Mariners manager Eric Wedge, upon returning from a tough road trip on Monday, finally got the chance to let his beleaguered closer, Brandon League, "watch a game."
League, who became the first reliever in franchise history to record a loss in four consecutive outings, couldn't perform that simple task over the last two days in Cleveland because there were no games, due to inclement weather.
But despite Wedge giving him Monday night off, barring an extra-innings marathon, the right-hander will remain the team's primary closer until David Aardsma is ready to return from his elbow injury. Wedge said Jamey Wright would get the ball on Monday night in a potential save situation.
"[League's] still our closer," Wedge said. "Let him come out here, play catch, maybe throw a little bit on the side, and be ready to go tomorrow."
Wedge, who experienced similar troubles with closers Joe Borowski and Bob Wickman from time to time while he was skipper of the Cleveland Indians, said League has been dealing with the difficult stretch well.
"He's been really good," Wedge said. "I was just talking to [general manager] Jack [Zduriencik] about this. He's handled everything really well. You really don't become a full-fledged closer until you blow a couple and then come back from 'em anyway. That's just part of the gig.
"One of the things I love about Brandon is that he's strong. He has an even temperament, but there's a quiet intensity there. He has some experience, and he's a pro. He'll handle this and come back from it even a little bit stronger."
Wedge said the coaching staff has noticed "a few things" that League has been doing mechanically that might serve as a reason for his recent troubles -- he has given up 10 earned runs in his last three innings over four outings -- but it wouldn't be wise to say what they are.
"There's a couple little things," Wedge said. "And that's usually what it is."
Gutierrez to join team on Tuesday
SEATTLE -- Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez will join the Mariners on Tuesday night, and could be activated by the end of the week, manager Eric Wedge said on Monday.
The team has been encouraged by Gutierrez's progress in coming back from irritable bowel syndrome, which has kept him out of action since Spring Training. Gutierrez played designated hitter for Triple-A Tacoma at New Orleans on Sunday and went 1-for-6, and he was in the lineup on Monday night playing center field and leading off.
"He's doing good," Wedge said on Monday afternoon. "We're going to fly him back here tomorrow, take a look at him and go from there. He's been playing every day. I've been talking to [Rainiers manager] Daren Brown regularly, [Mariners trainer] Rick Griffin's been talking to the trainers down there, and [Mariners general manager] Jack [Zduriencik] actually saw him play for a game. Hopefully, he has a good night tonight."
Wedge said he won't activate Gutierrez right away.
"He's going to be off tomorrow, regardless," Wedge said. "It could be [later this week]. I don't want to get ahead of myself. I've been there before. Let's let him get through tonight, we'll chit-chat with him tomorrow and go from there."
Felix, pitchers take first BP hacks
SEATTLE -- It's a rite of late spring. With Interleague Play around the corner, American League pitchers get to swing the lumber on the big field and finally take their batting practice hacks. And they take it pretty seriously, although it might not look like it to the casual observer. The Mariners' pitchers began their BP in earnest on Monday.
"It was pretty fun," said staff ace Felix Hernandez. "It's way different to hit on the field than hitting in the cage. It's pretty exciting. I like it."
Hernandez, of course, fancies himself a real big league hitter. He boasts the absurd career highlight of having taken two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana deep -- for a grand slam -- at Shea Stadium in 2008. It was one of the two hits he has in 17 career at-bats. That's a .118 average, if you're scoring at home.
"I've got a homer," he said. "And everyone knows about it. I made sure. Position players, pitchers, they all know."
Hernandez didn't muscle one out of Safeco during Monday's BP session, but he did hit the wall once. And even though most pitchers are told before BP to have not getting hurt as their primary goal, Hernandez didn't want to get cheated.
"I tried to hit a homer every time," he said with a smile. "Every single time. Oh yeah. Have to."
Entering Monday's game, right fielder Ichiro Suzuki had not hit a home run this season. That tied his career-high for most games (39) into a season without hitting a home run (in 2002). Ichiro has not homered since Sept. 11, 2010, in Anaheim. That's a span of 59 games, the third-longest stretch of his career without a homer. He went 80 games without a homer in 2007, and 60 games without one from 2001-02. ... Entering Monday, the Mariners had played extra innings in three of their last five games. Prior to their 10-inning loss to the White Sox on May 8, they had been the only team in the Majors to not play a single extra-inning game.