6/12/2013 9:03 P.M. ET
Make-A-Wish, Mariners team up for special visit
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Sophia Robinson's wish was to meet some Mariners players, but as a 4-year-old girl, she was equally interested in playing in the infield dirt.
So when the young Make-A-Wish child was greeted by several Mariners players on Monday at Safeco Field, ace pitcher Felix Hernandez wound up down on his hands and knees building dirt piles with her as the two got to know each other prior to the evening's game with the Astros.
Robinson is dealing with a heart disease, and she and her parents and sister spent several hours with the Mariners on the field and in the clubhouse.
Zunino makes Major League debut against Astros
SEATTLE -- Rookie catcher Mike Zunino made his Major League debut in Wednesday's series finale against the Astros as the Mariners got their first look at the 2012 first-round Draft pick out of Florida.
"Being able to play and just get your feet wet here is just pure excitement," Zunino said before the game after seeing his name on the lineup card for the first time. "I'm ready to get out there and play and hopefully help the team win."
Zunino was matched with veteran right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, who he caught in Triple-A Tacoma the first two months of the season. That familiarity should help, the 22-year-old said.
"You definitely have an idea of what he wants to do, which is the biggest step," Zunino said. "As long as we can be on the same page, or close to it, that's going to help him out. Hopefully, we can have some success. It's definitely going to help that I've caught him throughout the season so far."
Zunino was called up Tuesday and worked in the bullpen with some of the relievers during that night's game, but otherwise just absorbed his first Major League game from the bench.
"It was awesome," he said. "It was one of those things where you get called up, it's excitement in itself. But having a night to be able soak it in and see how everything works and sit and watch, it was a lot of fun. It was one of those things I'll never forget. I think tonight will be the same thing."
Morales, Morse still hampered by injuries
SEATTLE -- First baseman Kendrys Morales and right fielder Michael Morse both sat out Wednesday night's series finale with the Astros as minor injuries continued to limit the two Mariners veterans who are supposed to anchor the middle of the lineup.
Morales missed his second straight game due to stiffness in his lower back, while Morse was given the day off to rest a strained right quadriceps muscle that has hampered him the past two weeks.
Manager Eric Wedge is hoping the day off, combined with Thursday's travel day to Oakland, will help get both players back on track to be ready when a seven-game road swing begins Friday against the A's.
Morales has had to play extensively at first base instead of designated hitter the past few weeks while Justin Smoak has been on the disabled list with a strained oblique and that has likely contributed to his sore back, Wedge said.
"He's not ready to play," Wedge said. "We were hoping to DH him, but I knew first base wasn't going to be an option. We had Morse planned as an off-day all along. He needs it so we can couple that with [Thursday's day off]. We're a little thin, but other guys need to step up. That's what has to happen."
Thursday will be the club's first off-day after a string of 20 straight games and Wedge said the stretch has worn on his team after a tough first two months.
"We've got a lot of guys that are dinged up right and it's probably for the fact we've had to run them out there," he said. "We've been thin and we've had guys that are limited, so we haven't been able to get guys days off over the course of this 20 like you'd like to see. It's just been such a grind. I've never been part of a grind like this for the first two and a half months.
"These players have really been up against it. And you know what, they don't complain. They show up ready to play, they understand responsibility. It'll come back to us, the toughness they've shown here."
Gutierrez reports to Tacoma for second rehab stint
SEATTLE -- Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez reported to Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday to begin his second Minor League rehab stint as he recovers from a strained hamstring that has sidelined him since April 23.
Gutierrez was slotted in at designated hitter in Wednesday night's Tacoma game, but will be used in right and center field going forward as the Mariners attempt to get him back to the Major League club.
First baseman Justin Smoak took batting practice with the Mariners for a second day in a row on Wednesday and is expected to join the Rainiers on Thursday as he begins his own rehab stint while returning from a strained oblique muscle.
"I'm excited to get Smoak and Gutierrez out," manager Eric Wedge said. "Not having Gutierrez this year has really been a huge hit for us. It really changed everything. You talk about your lineup and what he means in the field, just everything really worked together. We saw in Spring Training when he was in there, it all came together nicely. So I'm hoping we can get both those guys back."
Ackley sees action in outfield at Triple-A
SEATTLE -- With rookie Nick Franklin playing well at second base for the Mariners, the club plans to take a look at Dustin Ackley in the outfield as he continues working at Triple-A Tacoma.
Ackley started in left field for the Rainiers on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, his first game action in the outfield since his college days at North Carolina. Ackley was drafted by the Mariners with the second overall pick in 2009 as an outfielder, but converted to second base and has played exclusively there in his first three seasons in Seattle.
Ackley was sent to Tacoma after hitting just .208 in the first two months of this season, but has batted .429 in his first 13 games for the Rainiers.
"I think it's good for Dustin," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "You never know what will happen. Versatility is a good thing. Right now, we spoke to him yesterday, asked him to take balls in the outfield, and he's wide open to it. It's great. He took balls in center field yesterday, took balls in left field, tonight he's starting in left.
"We'll see him play the outfield and just see how it goes. We know what he's done at second, let's let him get his feet wet in the outfield. … We've actually talked about this for a while. The timing never seemed right to do it, because he was playing second base in the big leagues. We didn't want to upset the apple cart at that point. But I think now that's he's down there, in a little more relaxed atmosphere, the time is right."
Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara said he saw Ackley play center field before the Mariners drafted him, though he played mostly first base in college after having Tommy John elbow surgery.
"We took him as a hitter," McNamara said. "In the back of our mind, he may end up in the outfield because that's where he played before he got hurt. It's kind of an interesting story. He was at first base. But here's a guy who could run and hit, but he was at first base in college because he couldn't throw because he just came off Tommy John. But all of us scouts saw him play in the outfield as a center fielder.
"He can run," McNamara said. "You could see more of his speed when he played outfield. I still think that run tool could be more productive out there."
First-round pick Peterson takes BP at Safeco Field
SEATTLE -- First-round Draft pick DJ Peterson, a third baseman out of New Mexico, took batting practice with the Mariners on Wednesday after agreeing to a contract as the 12th overall pick.
The Mariners announced the signing of Peterson and 12 other picks, including outfielder Tyler O'Neill (third round), infielder Jack Reinheimer (fifth), outfielder Corey Simpson (sixth), left-handed pitchers Tyler Olson (seventh) and Jacob Zokan (ninth) and right-hander Emilio Pagan (10th).
Also signing were infielders Justin Seager (12th) and Jeff Zimmerman (19th), right-handed pitchers Kevin McCoy (24th) and Ricky Claudio (27th), outfielder Chantz Mack (29th) and right-hander Rafael Pineda (30th).
"This is what you dream of as a little kid, hitting BP on the big field," Peterson said. "I've got some work to do to get up here and be with these guys on an everyday basis. But right now I'm just embracing this. This is awesome. My family is loving it. So it was fun, a lot of fun."
Peterson said he'll be reporting to Class A Everett after telling his agents he wanted to get started as quickly as possible. Reinheimer, Olson and Seager also will report to Everett, while the others are headed to Rookie League teams in Pulaski and Peoria.
"I want to play pro ball and want to get on the fast track and get my career started," he said. "I'm ready to get after it and play. I've got two weeks off and now I'm ready."
Peterson hit mostly line drives in his batting practice session, sending a few over the fence at spacious Safeco Field.
"I'm a pretty honest guy. I was really nervous," he said. "But after the first round, I felt good. The nerves kind of went away and I let it go a little bit. … I just try to get good wood on them, make good contact and just try to have fun and enjoy the opportunity I have right now."
Peterson said third baseman Kyle Seager loaned him his batting gloves and fielding glove and he borrowed a bat from rookie second baseman Nick Franklin.
"They could say, 'Here's this punk kid, he's a first rounder and probably has some good ego.' But they welcomed me in with open arms," he said. "It's been awesome. I truly respect all these guys and can't believe how nice they are to me. 'You want to swing my bat? Hey, you want to use my gloves?' It's not what I expected, but it's awesome. I couldn't ask for a better atmosphere."