7/26/2013 2:44 A.M. ET
Morse closing in on return to Mariners lineup
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Michael Morse was scheduled to play nine innings in right field for Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday night in his fourth rehab game, and a decision could come soon on when he'll rejoin the Mariners, according to interim manager Robby Thompson.
Morse hit .222 (2-for-9) with a home run and double in his first three games for Tacoma as he returns from a strained right quadriceps muscle that has sidelined him since June 21.
"I talked to him briefly today and he's champing at the bit," Thompson said. "He says he feels real good."
Thompson didn't rule out Morse returning by this weekend. He's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list whenever he's ready.
"We'll see how he comes out of this game," Thompson said Thursday afternoon. "If it all goes well, we'll go from there. So hopefully there are no setbacks."
Thompson said Morse is closer to rejoining the team than Franklin Gutierrez, who is also rehabbing in Tacoma in his third Minor League stint as he deals with a recurring hamstring issue.
Thompson acknowledged the Mariners could face a tough roster decision when Morse returns, as there already are five healthy outfielders in Raul Ibanez, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, Endy Chavez and Jason Bay.
Zunino expected back soon after foul tip off wrist
SEATTLE -- Mariners rookie catcher Mike Zunino took a foul tip off his left wrist and was replaced by veteran backup Henry Blanco in the fifth inning of Thursday's 8-2 victory over the Twins.
X-rays didn't reveal any damage, however, and the youngster is expected back shortly.
"I took a foul ball off there and it got me in the right spot," said Zunino, wearing a brace on the wrist postgame. "I will get re-evaluated in the morning. I'm feeling better already. We'll just take it day by day."
Acting manager Robby Thompson said Zunino was already hurting in that same area from a foul ball two days earlier and the decision was made to take him out with the team already sporting a 6-0 lead.
"I've taken balls off me everywhere in the last couple days," Zunino said. "But this one sort of got me in the same spot and sort of re-aggravated it a little bit. But it's not too bad."
Zunino, last year's third overall Draft pick, has been Seattle's primary starter since being called up from Triple-A Tacoma six weeks ago.
The 22-year-old was 1-for-2 with an RBI single on Thursday and is hitting .242 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 99 at-bats over 29 games.
Blanco, 41, is the only other catcher on the 25-man roster. He went 1-for-2 with a double after replacing Zunino and is batting .171 in 70 at-bats this season.
Jesus Sucre is on the 15-day disabled list, still recovering from a bruised wrist that occurred in early June. Jesus Montero, who opened the year as Seattle's starting catcher, has just rejoined Tacoma after missing more than a month following surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee. But Montero will be limited to first base and designated hitter duties the remainder of this season.
Thompson staying in contact with resting Wedge
SEATTLE -- Mariners bench coach Robby Thompson continued his duty as interim manager in place of Eric Wedge on Thursday after the team learned following Wednesday's game that their skipper would miss at least the next 10 games following a minor stroke.
Thompson already had filled in the three previous games after Wedge was hospitalized prior to Monday's contest with the Indians after becoming dizzy during batting practice.
Thompson expects an easy transition, given he's worked as Wedge's bench coach all three years in Seattle and the two share similar ideas on how to run a team and game situations.
"I think we're very similar," said Thompson, a two-time All-Star with the Giants during his playing career. "It's not a micro-managing thing. We don't try to make things happen or try to get our hands too deep into things. Pretty much the same philosophy on letting the game dictate what we need to do, other than what we need to do to make something happen out there."
Thompson talked with Wedge on Thursday morning and said he sounded good, but at least on this day they didn't discuss the lineup or upcoming baseball decisions.
"He basically said, hey, he trusts in me and knows what I'm all about," Thompson said. "Myself and the rest of the staff will daily piece together our lineup. As of late, it's been pretty easy. The lineup has been fairly steady each and every day, with maybe a change here or there. Hopefully that continues. I will definitely be in touch and talk with Eric, pretty close to every day, whether it be on the lineup issue or baseball or just talking and seeing how he's doing. And I'm sure he'll want to know how we're doing and how the players are doing."
The players are more concerned with how their manager is feeling at this point.
"He's our leader and everybody is all in for him," said rookie shortstop Brad Miller. "I think we owe it to him to go out and keep playing hard. That's all he ever asks of us, to play hard. So we have to take care of business out here for him, let him rest up and we can't wait until he gets back. That's the biggest thing."
Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire, who faced Wedge for years in AL Central battles when Wedge was with the Indians, said he was thinking of his longtime friend and foe, knowing the baseball grind "can wear you out" if managers aren't careful.
"I kind of know firsthand, I've been sick a couple times myself," Gardenhire said. "It's a stressful job and you do a lot of thinking about it and a lot of worrying about it. You try to do the right things. There are a lot more stressful jobs than ours, but definitely, pay attention to your health. It's a band of brothers here, so you're always thinking about each other when this stuff happens. I'm very concerned about him and glad he's doing OK."
Rehabbing Pryor pitching well in Tacoma
SEATTLE -- Injured reliever Stephen Pryor was in the Mariners' clubhouse Thursday afternoon to check with trainers and get some work in as he continues recovering from a torn latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder that has sidelined him since mid-April.
But Pryor is getting closer to returning as he's now thrown three scoreless innings in three rehab appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, including a 1-2-3 eighth inning in Wednesday's 5-3 victory over Tucson.
Pryor said he'll be back with the Rainiers on Friday and is looking toward pitching in back-to-back performances sometime soon.
"I think it's coming in the near future, but I'm not sure what days," said the hard-throwing right-hander. "If I get through that and everything goes fine, that's kind of the test. But I've felt good. Mechanically, everything has been good. I'm just kind of working on pitches and trying to get back to where I was."
Pryor, 24, got hit hard in his first game back for Class A Everett, but has since allowed just one baserunner -- on a walk -- in three innings for Tacoma.
"The first outing was a little rough," he said. "But after that, things have gone pretty smooth. I just had to get the cobwebs out, I guess."
Pryor didn't allow a run in seven outings for the Mariners to start the year, allowing just three hits in 7 1/3 innings, but isn't quite back to that dominant level yet.
"I'd say I'm like in mid-Spring Training," he said. "It's fair to say it's a few outings away, hopefully. But I'm finally getting to play in some games, which is nice. It's a lot better than sitting in the training room."
• Brandon Maurer gave up five hits and three runs (two earned) in 6 2/3 innings with three walks and eight strikeouts in Triple-A Tacoma's 5-3 victory over Tucson on Wednesday. The 23-year-old is 3-4 with a 5.21 ERA in 10 starts since being sent down.
• Kendrys Morales had six home runs in July going into Thursday's game, tied for second in the American League for the month behind the eight of Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre.