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6/12/2014 4:27 A.M. ET

Mariners' relief work has been outstanding

SEATTLE -- When Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush allowed a go-ahead single from Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury in the eighth inning of Tuesday's loss, it marked one of the few times this season the Mariners' bullpen faltered.

How good has it been?

In 24 games prior to Wednesday's game against New York, the bullpen had a 1.17 ERA, allowing just eight runs in 61 1/3 innings. Going into the game, it ranked second in the AL with a 2.72 ERA, which puts it on pace to surpass the 2001 Mariners, whose bullpen posted a club-record 3.04 ERA and helped the team tie a Major League record with 116 regular-season wins.

"Our bullpen has been outstanding. But I think it's a combination of good starting pitching, too," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We've been stretched a few times, but in our last 10-12 games, our starters have been pretty darn good at taking us deep into ballgames, which makes your bullpen even better."

Smoak to DL; Morrison recalled from Triple-A

SEATTLE -- The Mariners placed first baseman Justin Smoak on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quad and recalled outfielder Logan Morrison from Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday.

Smoak's DL stint is retroactive to June 10, meaning he'll be eligible to return June 25.

For the past week, the struggling power hitter (.208/.282/.361 slash line) was used as a defensive replacement late in games. On Tuesday, he took batting practice and did some light running drills, though manager Lloyd McClendon expressed disappointment with the way he was progressing physically, saying Smoak was "70 to 75 percent."

When McClendon was asked Wednesday how Smoak was healing, he reiterated his point.

"At a snail's pace," he said. "It's going to get better, but he's been out for five days, and he's probably going to be out another four or five days. That's [at least] nine days without playing. It just didn't make any sense [to keep him active]."

Smoak said he can take batting practice and field, but running is the problem. He will continue to work his way back with the hope he can return to the lineup after the Mariners return from their next road trip, McClendon said.

"He's going to rehab here," McClendon said. "Hopefully, sometime next week, we'll get him out and get him some at-bats [on a rehab assignment]."

Smoak's absence opens the door for Morrison, who hit fifth and played first base Wednesday against the Yankees.

Last December, the Mariners traded reliever Carter Capps to the Marlins in exchange for Morrison after he posted a .249/.337/.427 slash line in four seasons with Miami.

Morrison got off to a slow start to 2014, netting just three hits in 20 at-bats before going on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring in mid-April.

"Rehab stint was long, swing is not. The swing feels good," Morrison said. "The at-bats feel better. All that stuff feels great. [I'm] ready to go and help the team win any way I can. Any other clichés you need?"

Though he suffered a setback while rehabbing, Morrison eventually recovered and played 18 games with the Rainiers, hitting .308 (20-for-65) with two doubles, three home runs and 13 runs.

"I guess he swung OK. To be honest with you, I don't care about Tacoma," McClendon said. "I'm worried about what he does here. We'll see."

McClendon: Matchups create different lineups

SEATTLE -- Lloyd McClendon has shuffled the lineup to provide favorable platoon matchups. He's shuffled it because of injuries and to rest banged up everyday players. He's shuffled it to spark the Mariners' offense, which entered Wednesday ranked last in the American League with a .238 batting average, and 10th in the AL in runs.

In 58 of 64 games, McClendon has trotted out a different lineup. It's a task he takes no pleasure in.

"No, I don't," McClendon said when asked if he likes juggling players. "I asked [Ken Griffey Jr.], Edgar [Martinez] and [Jay] Buhner to come out of retirement. They said no. The fact is, players don't play every day anymore. You have to have different players in there, and you have to have matchups… that's just the way it is.

"But it gives you a lot to talk about, so it's very interesting."

The lineup looked a bit different again Wednesday when it was posted a few hours before the Mariners got their first glimpse at Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (9-1, 2.02 ERA). Seven of the nine Mariners batted from the left side. Utility player Cole Gillespie made his first appearance in the No. 9 spot and second start in a row at designated hitter.

"Cole has done a nice job," McClendon said. "He's had an opportunity to produce, and he's produced. You do that, that dictates more playing time."

Gillespie was viewed as a late-inning defensive replacement when he was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma in late April. But the Oregon State University product has caught fire in his last 11 games, batting .423 (11-for-26).

"I've actually felt pretty good this whole time," Gillespie said. "Early on, I was hitting some balls hard and they weren't dropping necessarily. I started to get the cheap ones that dropped for infield hits. That got my confidence going."

Gillespie has played in every game dating back to June 3. But he began slowly, hitting just .217 (5-for-23) in his first 13 games.

"There was a little bit of frustration, but at the same time I just kind of wanted to be ready for when my name was called on, so I was still taking care of my business, doing the things I had to make sure I was ready to go when I was getting in there," he said.

Mariners place Saunders on 15-day disabled list

SEATTLE -- The Mariners placed right fielder Michael Saunders on the 15-day disabled list due to right shoulder inflammation shortly after Wednesday's 4-2 loss to the Yankees at Safeco Field.

Saunders played in the series opener against New York on Tuesday, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, after missing the previous three games in Tampa Bay. He sustained the injury while swinging his bat last Friday against the Rays.

The move means Seattle will likely call up a player from the Minor Leagues to fill the spot Saunders vacated. There are a myriad of candidates in Triple-A Tacoma, including shortstop Chris Taylor, first baseman Jesus Montero, recently acquired outfielder Xavier Nady, infielder Nick Franklin and center fielder Abraham Almonte.

A corresponding roster move is expected on Thursday.

Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.