MINNEAPOLIS -- Mariners shortstop Luis Rodriguez was spiked in the bare hand by a sliding Danny Valencia of the Twins in the ninth inning of Thursday's 3-2 loss and had to leave the game at Target Field.

Rodriguez, starting in place of injured starter Brendan Ryan, had his right hand heavily bandaged afterward and teammates said he'd suffered pretty nasty cuts in three different places.

"He got spiked pretty good out there in a couple different spots on his hand, so we'll have to see how he is after we take a good look at him," said manager Eric Wedge.

Rodriguez had to reach back to get Valencia on a stolen-base attempt with one out in the ninth, making the tag with his glove as the Twins third baseman caught his other hand with his lead foot.

Rookie Kyle Seager, who had been at third base, finished the game at shortstop as fellow rookie Alex Liddi came in at third.

With Ryan remaining back in Seattle to have treatment on a disk problem in his neck, Seager now appears to be the only healthy shortstop option for the time being. The Mariners have six games remaining, three at Texas before closing out with a home series against the A's.

Wedge said before the game that he wanted to see more of Seager up the middle before the season ended and it appears he'll now have no choice in that matter unless Rodriguez is able to return quickly.

Rodriguez went 1-for-4 before his injury and is hitting .202 in 109 at-bats for the season.

League closing out strong season in new role

MINNEAPOLIS -- A lot of things have changed over the course of this Mariners season, but one of the few constants has been closer Brandon League.

After taking over for the injured David Aardsma in Spring Training, the former setup man earned his first American League All-Star bid and now has notched 36 saves -- the sixth-best single-season mark in franchise history with seven games still remaining going into Thursday's series finale against the Twins.

Having that anchor in the back of a bullpen that has undergone so much other transition has been a life saver for the young Mariners.

"It's huge," said manager Eric Wedge. "When you're in position to win ballgames, you need to finish them off. A ballclub needs that type of confidence in their closer. And they do and I do, for good reason.

"For that to be the one constant this year has really been a separator for us. I can't even imagine what it would have been without that."

League feels he's still developing into the closer role, knowing there's always more to be done in a job where any struggles are magnified.

"I still have a lot of things to work on," said the 28-year-old. "It's tough to work on stuff when you come into a one-run game, but just the whole experience I'm soaking up and getting accustomed to.

"When you're on a team with great pitching that is scratching for runs, you're going to get a lot of save opportunities."

League notched saves in the first two games of the Twins' series, both high-wire acts in which he allowed three baserunners -- including a no-out, bases-loaded situation Tuesday -- but still finished the job.

He lost four straight games in one rough patch in the season's second month. But since May 17, he's 27-for-29 in save opportunities with a 1.04 ERA and a .205 opponent's batting average.

"I think he was a different pitcher in the second half after he went through that little bump in the road," said Wedge. "I think he learned from it. He's been much less predictable in using all of his pitches. He's closing with stuff at the end of the game and that's a nice combination."

Jimenez relishes first win of difficult career

MINNEAPOLIS -- For left-handed reliever Cesar Jimenez, the first win was a long time coming. Five years and 10 days, to be exact, from the time he made his Major League debut for the Mariners in 2006 to his first victory in Wednesday's 5-4 nail-biter over the Twins at Target Field.

Only three active Major League pitchers waited longer between their first game and first win -- Detroit's Brad Thomas being the longest at 8 years, 337 days.

Jimenez, 26, missed most of 2007 with a fractured elbow and almost all of the '09-10 seasons with arm and shoulder problems, so the road to this point hasn't always been smooth. But even after five years, his teammates didn't forget the traditional beer shower for pitchers who finally notch their first victory.

"It means a lot," said the Venezuelan native, who was added to the roster three weeks ago as a September callup. "I'm thankful for the opportunity just to be here and win with the support of my team."

As he talked to a couple reporters, one of those teammates -- Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez -- grabbed a microphone and took part in the interview. But Jimenez deserved his own moment in the spotlight after his lengthy struggle to get to this point.

"I've had a lot of injuries, so I didn't have a lot of opportunities before," he said once Hernandez relented and left him alone. "Now I got an opportunity and we won the game. Right now, I'm feeling real good. My arm feels good. I don't have any problems."

His 5.40 ERA in five appearances since his callup is a bit deceiving as he's not allowed a run in his last four outings, including 1 1/3 innings on Wednesday after entering with runners on second and third in the fifth.

Manager Eric Wedge is intrigued by what he's seen.

"I thought it was interesting [Wednesday night]," Wedge said. "He's got that changeup that almost acts like a breaking ball when he really throws it right. It still starts with his fastball, which has been a little bit up for me. He still needs to work that down and spot it up and then he can really let that changeup play up.

"But he's handled himself well, he's done a decent job and we'll continue to take a look at him. We'll see. He's a different type of left-handed pitcher."

Ripken to speak at Hutch Award luncheon

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Fred Hutch Award luncheon at Safeco Field always draws interesting speakers, but organizers scored a nice coup for the upcoming 47th annual event with the announcement of Cal Ripken Jr. to the program.

The Feb. 1 event will honor the winner of the Fred Hutch Award, given each year to a Major League player who best exemplifies the spirit of Fred Hutchinson, a big league player and manager who died of cancer in 1964 at the age of 45.

Seattle was Hutchinson's hometown and now is the city that houses the renowned cancer research center that bears his name. The Fred Hutch luncheon has raised more than $2.9 million over the past 12 years to support early cancer detection research.

The luncheon is free, but guests have to pre-register and are asked to make a donation of $150 or more during the event. You can register or learn more about the Hutch Award and luncheon at the Hutch Award homepage.

Worth noting

• Outfielder Casper Wells went to the doctor in Seattle on Thursday morning and will fly to Texas to meet the team if he's cleared to fly after dealing with a sinus issue. If not, he'll likely wait until the club returns to Safeco Field for the season-ending series with Oakland starting Monday.

• Shortstop Brendan Ryan also remains in Seattle getting treatment for a disc issue in his neck. Manager Eric Wedge said he won't join the team in Texas and it's uncertain if he'll play again this year.

"I'm a big believer in getting him to try to finish on the field, but you have to use common sense with that as well," Wedge said.

• When Cesar Jimenez recorded his first win Wednesday, the Mariners set a club record with eight pitchers having recorded their first MLB victory this season. Blake Beavan, Steve Delabar, Josh Lueke, Michael Pineda, Chance Ruffin, Anthony Vasquez and Tom Wilhelmsen previously notched their first wins.

• Saturday's game time in Texas is a change from the original schedules, with first pitch at 1:11 p.m. PT for Felix Hernandez's final start of the year. The game originally was set for 5:05 p.m. PT, but has been picked up for national FOX-TV broadcast.