06/15/12 9:59 PM ET
Wedge discouraging doubt during skid
By Josh Liebeskind / MLB.com
The current skid has made for plenty of frustration for the Mariners, as offensive struggles continue at Safeco Field, where they are hitting just .198 as a team.
"You can't let it get inside you," said manager Eric Wedge. "Doubt should never come our way. Frustration's going to be here; I'm sure it's here for a few of us now. But for me, it's just knowing that these guys are going to eventually be as good a team here and as good an offensive club here as they are on the road."
The frustration was evident against the Padres, when first baseman Justin Smoak hit three balls in the span of two games that he thought would clear the fences. All three settled harmlessly into fielders' gloves just shy of the wall in the outfield gaps. Smoak and other players have discussed the fact that the ball doesn't carry well at Safeco Field, but also refuse to place blame on the conditions.
"The belief never wavers," Wedge said. "Not from me and from our coaching staff, and hopefully not from them. Like I've told them before, you've just got to remember how good you are and ultimately how good you're going to be. Once you get to the point to where you're going to be the big league player that you're going to be, I think everybody's going to be pleased with that in the end."
Gutierrez provides balance atop lineup
SEATTLE -- With a short list of right-handed batters, Mariners manager Eric Wedge hasn't really had any other option at the top of the lineup but to stack it with lefties.
Wedge experimented with switch-hitter Chone Figgins in the two-hole at the beginning of the season, but the veteran wasn't producing, and the skipper has been forced to go with the combination of left-handers Ichiro Suzuki, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager at the top of the lineup. With the return of outfielder Franklin Gutierrez from the disabled list, though, Wedge now has the option of balancing the lineup.
Wedge did just that for Friday's game against the Giants, moving Gutierrez to second in the order and dropping Ackley into the seventh spot.
"That was part of changing the lineup," Wedge said. "I just wanted more balance, now that we have [Gutierrez] back here. It's just too hard to do it the way we've been doing it with all the lefties. It doesn't play well early with the starter because it allows him to get into a rhythm facing everybody from the same side of the plate.
"We didn't have a choice with it because that was the cast of characters we've had, but now we're bouncing them back and forth a little bit with the left and the right. I think that will bode better for us."
The way the Mariners have struggled offensively as a team, and especially with his personal troubles at the plate lately, Ackley is a proponent of the change. In 22 games since May 18, Ackley is hitting just 19-for-89 (.213), including 3-for-18 (.167) in his last four games. He is currently riding a career-high 13 straight games with a strikeout.
"We've been left-handed-hitter dominant lately, I feel like," he said. "I think with the way I've not [been] hitting that great lately, I think [Gutierrez] going to the two-hole, I think that's where he's hit a lot, I think a little change might be needed the way we've been going the past couple days."
Saunders has no problem moving to left
SEATTLE -- With the return of Franklin Gutierrez from the disabled list, Michael Saunders has moved from center field to left field to accommodate the former Gold Glove winner. Saunders has played well in center this season, but said he is more than happy to make way for Gutierrez.
"Guti's a Gold Glove center fielder, so it's certainly best for the team," Saunders said. "It doesn't matter to me where I hit in the lineup or where I play; I just want to be out there. If I can help the team by moving over to left and Guti is now back in center, then that's good. He deserves it. He's a Gold Glove center fielder, he's one of the best in the game, so I think it's best for the team."
Saunders played some left when he first came up with the Mariners in 2009, as well as early last season, so he feels pretty comfortable in the position. He said he has been taking extra reps during batting practice, though, to adjust to the different angle. He had two putouts Thursday night in his first start in left field of the season.
Ichiro entered Friday's game two hits away from reaching 2,500 in his Major League career. He reached his current total of 2,498 in 1,813 games. If he can record two hits in 11 games, he will reach 2,500 in the fourth-fewest games ever, behind Al Simmons, Ty Cobb and George Sisler.
Entering Friday's series opener, the Mariners had won nine of their past 11 games against the Giants. The Mariners lead the all-time series, 12-10.
The Mariners have been successful in 25 of their last 30 stolen-base attempts. That is after they started the season 17-for-27. Saunders leads the team with 10 steals while Ichiro has nine.
Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.