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05/06/12 3:50 PM ET

Kawasaki in unlikely role as emergency catcher

SEATTLE -- At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Munenori Kawasaki is a pretty unlikely looking character when he straps on the catching gear. But the Mariners utility infielder continues getting some pregame bullpen work behind the plate in case he's ever needed as an emergency catcher.

When starter Miguel Olivo went on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained groin, the Mariners opted to stick with just rookie Jesus Montero and veteran John Jaso as their two catchers until Olivo's return.

Enter Kawasaki, who was "volunteered" by manager Eric Wedge to try his hand behind the plate.

"He's catching a bullpen as we speak. I hope he survives it," Wedge said while meeting with the media prior to Sunday's game against the Twins. "It's just where we are. Especially yesterday and today, when you've got your two catchers playing, plus the fact you're going to have to pinch-run for Montero late in ballgames, then you're really up against it.

"We just need to have someone who can at least defend themselves out there in that situation," Wedge said, rapping his knuckles on his wood desk. "Hopefully we don't need it."

Kawasaki's greatest attribute?

"He'll be full of energy back there, no doubt about that," Wedge said with a chuckle.

Ryan up for challenge of hitting second in lineup

SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge rolled out the same lineup for a second straight day Sunday, which meant another shot for shortstop Brendan Ryan in the No. 2 spot despite his less-than-sterling .145 batting average.

With Dustin Ackley leading off and Ichiro Suzuki hitting third, Wedge wants a right-hander to break up the top of the lineup and feels Ryan fits well in that spot as a situational hitter. He came through with a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly in Saturday's 7-0 win over the Twins, but knows it'll take repeated success to stay in that position.

Ryan said he appreciates the vote of confidence from his skipper.

"No question. He certainly didn't have to do that," Ryan said. "He's maybe trying to jump-start me a little, too, obviously being in an incredibly slow start. But I'm not going to hit a buck-whatever all year. Right around this time things started to turn around last year, so hopefully that's the case."

As for the challenge of hitting second?

"I love it. I got to do that a little bit in St. Louis and it's fun," Ryan said. "There are a lot of different opportunities in that position. When it comes late in the game, then the sac bunting or hit and run, all that stuff is in. It's just fun being in those situations."

Wedge said he's seeing a more mature Ryan this season in the way he's handled his difficult start.

"I think he's turned the corner in that respect," Wedge said. "He's so passionate and it means so much to him, it's not easy for him to maintain an even keel. And I'm a big believer in that because you have to have that. But if he can get to that point and stay where he's at right now, it's going to benefit him.

"That and I like what I'm seeing fundamentally from him in the cage, during BP and whatnot," Wedge said. "And situationally, when he does get confident and gets to the point he needs to be, he's a pretty good two-hole hitter. We saw that last year."

Ryan feels he's finding some answers at the plate, realizing that his swing got too long as he started pulling the ball to left field with some success during the spring.

"I got a little greedy and didn't get back to the roots or whatever, staying with who you are," he said. "My swing got bigger. There's some other guys that could hit there [in the No. 2 spot], but it worked out a little last year and we had some Spring Training games with this type of lineup and it worked pretty well. So we'll see. If it works, I'm sure we'll be seeing more of it."

Seager powering up on recent hot streak

SEATTLE -- Third baseman Kyle Seager continues developing into a key hitter in the middle of the Mariners lineup with a hot surge in the past two weeks. The second-year Major Leaguer took over the team's RBI lead by driving in four runs in Saturday's 7-0 victory.

In 10 games since April 24, he's hit .361 (13-for-36) with three doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs, with an impressive .694 slugging percentage and a 1.073 OPS.

Those are big-time numbers and much needed for the Mariners offense. Manager Eric Wedge said Seager answered his offseason challenge and is benefiting now.

"He was one of those nine guys we really challenged to do some things in the offseason and I could tell early on in Spring Training, just the way the ball was coming off his bat was different than last year," Wedge said. "He's brought that into the season.

"You know I don't like players being in-between," said Wedge. "He's not afraid to swing and miss and take some chances. He can turn around a good fastball, he puts up a tough at-bat and sticks his nose in there. There's a lot to like there."

At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Seager isn't built like a power hitter. But he's an excellent line-drive hitter. His 21 doubles over the past 57 games dating back to last season are second most in the Majors behind Joey Votto's 22, tied with Robinson Cano, James Loney, David Ortiz and Marco Scutaro.

And he's showed increasing strength and the ability to drive the ball over the wall with three home runs in the past four games, going into Sunday's series finale with the Twins.

"He has a great swing," Wedge said when asked where the power comes from. "He always has. That's why he's always been a hitter. Now with a little more strength and being a little more crisp to the baseball, that's what you're seeing."

Worth noting

• Catcher Miguel Olivo isn't eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list until May 16, which is midway through the next four-city, 10-day road trip. But manager Eric Wedge said he's recovering very well from the strained groin muscle suffered Monday at Tampa Bay.

"He's doing great," Wedge said. "This is a guy who takes care of his body in some kind of rare way. Because it was a Grade 1 [the least-severe] type injury, you know he's going to do everything he can every day to get back. I think we'll see him back sooner than later."

• Though he just turned 26, Felix Hernandez's 212 career starts are the most of any active pitcher for his current Major League team. According to Elias Sports Bureau, before this season no MLB pitcher under the age of 30 had led all active Major Leaguers in starts for his current team since Bob Feller in 1948.

• Going into Sunday's game, the Mariners were third in the Majors with 51 doubles, trailing only the Red Sox (71) and Royals (64).

• Kyle Seager's nine RBIs over the past four games heading into Sunday were the most by a Mariners player in a four-game span since Raul Ibanez had 15 in a four-game run from Aug. 2-5, 2008.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.