KANSAS CITY -- Since being removed from the closer's role at the start of June, Brandon League has been working to expand his pitch selection and change up his pattern a bit to keep hitters off-balance. And while things are always a work in progress in the Major Leagues, League is pleased to indeed be seeing some progress.
"I'm throwing a lot more sliders," League said, "and it's making my fastball more effective. I feel like I don't have to be as perfect with the fastball."
League was brought into a sticky seventh-inning situation on Monday with runners on first and second and Royals cleanup hitter Billy Butler at the plate. He fell behind 3-1, but then got Butler looking with two tough fastballs.
"First and second with two outs, I want to go right after him," League said. "He didn't swing the bat the whole at-bat, but I got the calls my way and got out of the inning."
"League really stepped up against Butler there in that situation," said manager Eric Wedge. "He was really dotting it up there."
League has allowed just one earned run over 11 2/3 innings in his last 13 appearances for a 0.77 ERA, with 12 hits, four walks and four strikeouts. His ERA has dropped from 4.18 on June 10 to 3.18 heading into Tuesday's game.
"I feel like he's done a better job mixing his pitches," said Wedge. "His fastball command has been a little better and the velocity has been more consistent, too. He's been mixing in his slider a lot more, which has really been effective for him."
Wells making most of starting opportunities
KANSAS CITY -- With his career-high five RBIs in Monday's 9-4 win over the Royals, left fielder Casper Wells continued taking advantage of his opportunity for everyday playing time in the Mariners' outfield.
Since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on June 13, Wells has hit .301 with three doubles, one triple, four home runs and 16 RBIs in 83 at-bats heading into Tuesday's game.
Wells' .869 OPS in that span has been a welcome sign for a Mariners team searching for offensive help. Wells said steady playing time has helped, as he's started 15 straight games now with center fielder Franklin Gutierrez sidelined by a concussion.
"It's allowed me to have a consistent approach and not try to do too much at the plate," Wells said. "I can be a little more relaxed, just knowing you'll get a chance to play against righties and lefties alike. I think it's made me dial into really having a consistent mindset and approach at the plate.
"Before when I was just playing against lefties, I was a little stale from not playing a lot and ending the season the way I did last year. I was kind of finding my way a little," he said. "Some days I'd be relaxed and others I'd be like, 'Man, I haven't got a hit.'
"Now I'm not thinking about getting hits, I'm just thinking about hitting the ball solid when it comes over the plate and letting my athletic ability and natural instincts take over from there. It's been working out so far. I just need to stick with it."
Manager Eric Wedge said Wells has opened eyes both at the plate and in the field, where he threw out Yuniesky Betancourt at third base on Monday trying to advance on a fly ball to the wall.
"He's been really impressive since he's come back up here," Wedge said. "The thing you notice, obviously he's a good outfielder, but he may have one of the more accurate arms in the outfield, and with something on it. We've seen that a few times.
"And obviously he's been hanging in there better against right-handers, which is good to see. It's been 2-3 weeks. I'd like to see him keep it going."
Gutierrez getting close to rehab assignment
KANSAS CITY -- Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez took batting practice on Tuesday for the first time since sustaining a concussion on June 29 and manager Eric Wedge said he's getting closer to returning to game action.
Wedge indicated the Mariners will decide on Thursday if Gutierrez is ready to go out on a Minor League rehab assignment or if he'll stay with the team and continue working out as it travels to Tampa Bay for a three-game series.
"What we want to do is assess where he's at Thursday," Wedge said. "I don't want to get ahead of myself."
The center fielder was hit in the head by a pickoff throw to first base by Boston's Franklin Morales and has been on the disabled list ever since. Gutierrez played just 13 games this season after opening the year on the DL after tearing his pectoral muscle early in Spring Training.
Rookie starter Erasmo Ramirez, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow, threw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday. He's scheduled to throw a 50-pitch bullpen on Thursday and then face live hitters in a simulated game Saturday before a decision is made on whether he's ready to go out on a Minor League rehab assignment.
Shortstop Brendan Ryan was back in the lineup on Tuesday after being removed in the second inning Monday after fouling a ball off his right knee.
"He's still a little dinged up, but he's good enough to play," Wedge said.
After saying John Jaso would play on Tuesday against left-hander Everett Teaford, Wedge changed his plans when the Royals switched up and brought up rookie southpaw Ryan Verdugo for Tuesdays' start.
Wedge said he planned now to use Jaso on Wednesday against lefty Bruce Chen, who he feels is a better matchup for the left-handed hitting catcher.
The Mariners' five-run first inning on Monday was the most runs the team has scored before making its first out of a game since June 1, 2003, when they put up six at Minnesota.