CLEVELAND -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the club is considering going to a six-man rotation with Anthony Vasquez in the mix, after the rookie debuted on Tuesday night in a 12-7 victory over the Indians.
With reliever Dan Cortes placed on the 15-day disabled list in order to create a roster spot for Vasquez, the bullpen currently is at six and could stay there until rosters are allowed to expand with September callups, Wedge said prior to Wednesday's series finale in Cleveland.
"What we need to do is kind of take it day to day to get to September and then go from there," said Wedge.
Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis have talked about going to a six-man rotation for a while now as a way to ease the workload on 22-year-old rookie Michael Pineda and others.
Felix Hernandez, who had already thrown 194 1/3 innings entering Wednesday's start against the Indians, is on pace to finish close to last year's American League-leading 249 2/3 innings.
Jason Vargas is on pace to throw 205 innings. He set a career high last year at 192 2/3. The Mariners have eased Pineda's load recently, but he has already thrown 147 innings and is on pace for 186.
"We still have some off-days, so we'll pick and choose how we want to handle these guys," Wedge said. "Obviously, everybody is well aware of Pineda. We have some other young pitchers. And even Felix."
The Mariners went with a five-man rotation with a six-man bullpen for much of the first half of the season, but at that point, they were getting consistent, lengthy starts from their rotation and strong relief from veterans Jamey Wright, Aaron Laffey and David Pauley.
Pauley was traded to the Tigers last month, Laffey has been released and Wright has struggled of late, while the starting rotation has also become less consistent in innings produced, with the addition of rookies Charlie Furbush, Blake Beavan and now possibly Vasquez.
Even with Cortes going on the disabled list, three of the remaining six relievers -- Chance Ruffin, Josh Lueke and Tom Wilhelmsen -- are rookies.
"Different situation," Wedge said of going with a six-man bullpen at this point. "We're going to take it day to day. We're a little thin today. Hopefully, Felix [Hernandez] has a good day for us. But we'll take it day to day, and hopefully in September, we can add a couple guys."
Gray notches first career save
CLEVELAND -- With four rookies in the bullpen, Jeff Gray is regarded as one of the grizzled veterans. But even at age 29, the right-hander hardly qualifies as a longtime Major Leaguer.
Gray came into this season with 36 big league games over two years with the A's and Cubs; he has added 24 more appearances with the White Sox and Mariners in 2011.
Gray got his first career save in Tuesday's 12-7 victory over the Indians, coming in with the tying run on deck with one out in the bottom of the eighth and getting the Mariners out of a bases-loaded situation created by rookie Chance Ruffin.
"At that moment, I didn't really notice," Gray said of the unusual save circumstances. "I knew we were up, and I needed to come in and close the door. It's always good to finish out a game and help your team win."
Gray pitched extremely well in July when he first got a consistent shot, but had struggled in August, allowing seven runs over 4 2/3 innings, with two blown saves in his six appearances entering Tuesday.
Thus Tuesday's 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball with one hit were a welcome sight.
"He needed that," manager Eric Wedge said. "He'd had a couple tough outings. And we needed him to get it done there. That type of game, for him to come in that [eighth] inning and ultimately finish it off, that was big."
Wedge will get no argument there from the Missouri native.
"It's been a little rocky, but I've tried to stay on top of doing some extra work and trying to get sharp again," Gray said. "I feel really good right now."
Gutierrez receives well-earned rest in finale
CLEVELAND -- Gold Glove center fielder Franklin Gutierrez has been on such a hot streak lately that he asked manager Eric Wedge to let him play both games of Tuesday's doubleheader rather than giving him some planned rest in the nightcap.
Wedge relented, but had Gutierrez sit out on Wednesday in order to keep him fresh and to give Wedge a chance to take a look at rookie Trayvon Robinson in center field in the series finale before an off-day on Thursday.
Gutierrez has rebounded from a rough first four months of the season to hit .306 over his past 22 games, raising his average to .223.
"I just wanted to give him a day today," Wedge said before Wednesday's series finale. "He's been really good. He's been grinding. I was going to give him the second game off yesterday, but he really wanted to play. So hey, I love it. I want people to want to play.
"So we'll give him today and [Thursday], a nice little break for him. He should be feeling good about the progress he's made. We just need him to stay on that path, and there's no reason he shouldn't."
Wedge also is curious to see what Robinson looks like in center field. The youngster went 6-for-9 with three doubles while playing left field in Tuesday's doubleheader, raising his average to .321.
"I'm interested to see that, too," Wedge said of the rookie in center. "He'll get a few more opportunities. That's where his natural position is."