SEATTLE -- Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders returned to the lineup Friday as the Mariners opened a three-game series with the A's, and manager Eric Wedge is hoping he gets to see the two athletic outfielders together for much of the remaining 24 games.Saunders had missed 11 of the previous 12 starts with a strained right groin muscle, with his previous return aborted when he felt he felt the leg tighten up and was pulled after just four innings last Friday. Gutierrez sat out Wednesday's game after feeling tenderness in his own groin muscle after making a diving catch in the outfield on Tuesday against the Red Sox. Gutierrez has played just 21 games this season due to a strained pectoral muscle and then a concussion, while Saunders had his recent difficulties after colliding with right fielder Eric Thames chasing down a ball in the gap on Aug. 24 in Chicago. "I'm looking forward to seeing both of them play at the same time," Wedge said of the alignment he's had but 10 times this season. "I've talked to them and they both feel good, so let's go." Saunders ran the bases hard and pushed his leg hard in tests on Wednesday, then took advantage of Thursday's off-day to get a little extra rest before his return. "It's been a while," the 25-year-old Canadian said. "I've been really anxious to play and I just want to be out there helping the club. I thought I was ready last time and I guess I rushed back too soon. So we took extra precautions this time." Saunders was on a hot streak prior to his injury, hitting four home runs in six games and batting .357 (10-for-28) over his last 10 games. "I was playing well and feeling good in the box right before I got injured, so I'm looking to pick up where I left off," he said. "Everybody in the clubhouse wants to finish strong on a personal note. But the main thing is, as a team, that we try to win out here. This is a big series with Oakland. We're playing great baseball and looking to continue to do that. We want to finish on a high note." Gutierrez will play center field when he's in the lineup. Saunders, who filled in very well in center when Gutierrez was out, was in left field on Friday, but also will play some right field in the final weeks. Wedge likes the idea of the two side by side. "We've only seen that for just a few short moments this year," said Wedge. "But obviously they're both so good, we've essentially got two center fielders out there, which is nice."
Mariners will work Ramirez, Noesi into rotation
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Friday that the club will rework its rotation in the final 3 1/2 weeks of the season, with right-handers Erasmo Ramirez and Hector Noesi "getting a couple of starts" after being added as September callups.Both Ramirez and Noesi started games earlier this season before being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma. Wedge declined to get into specifics since pitching coach Carl Willis was still in the process of talking to all the pitchers involved, but he did say Felix Hernandez would remain on his normal schedule and that the changes would likely start going into motion during next week's road trip to Toronto and Texas. After saying Hernandez would stay in his normal rotation, Wedge was asked about Japanese rookie Hisashi Iwakuma, who starts Saturday against the A's and has been very strong in his last nine outings. "I don't want to go down that road with everybody," Wedge said. "It's going to change a little bit. We want to make sure we accomplish what we want to accomplish here and give ourselves the best chance to win. Of course Iwakuma will continue to start, but there'll be times when everybody maybe gets a little more time." Wedge said he wasn't looking at a six-man rotation, but that schedule would be outlined shortly. "We've got a plan together, and Carl is in the process of relaying what he needs to to everybody," he said. "It's always subject to change and we want to stay flexible with it, that's why we don't want to just lay it out the rest of the way through. We want to keep our options open and make sure everybody knows when they're going to pitch."
Jimenez gets first Major League start
SEATTLE -- After 13 seasons in the Minor Leagues, Luis Jimenez walked into the Mariners clubhouse on Friday and saw his name on a Major League lineup card for the first time.Jimenez, 30, has played in six Major League farm systems and also spent a year in Japan and another playing strictly in his native Venezuela. But after being called up by the Mariners on Tuesday when rosters were expanded for September, the big man got his first start at designated hitter against the A's. "It's a great feeling," he said after seeing his name in the No. 8 spot in manager Eric Wedge's lineup. "This is hopefully the beginning of a good future. I just need to focus on what we have to do and helping the team." The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder put up some nice numbers for Triple-A Tacoma, batting .310 with 20 home runs and 81 RBIs in 125 games and Wedge wanted to see his left-handed bat against Oakland rookie A.J. Griffin, the only right-hander the A's will start in this three-game series. Jimenez popped out in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance on Tuesday in his big league debut. "We've got a couple left-handers coming up, so I felt like this was a good opportunity to get him in there," Wedge said. "He was very consistent in Tacoma this year. So we'll get him in there tonight and hopefully he can help us win a ballgame." Jimenez has put on shows in batting practice in his first few days with the club, hitting some towering shots into the right-field upper deck. "Obviously he's got a lot of raw power," said Wedge.
• Since July 21, Tom Wilhelmsen has racked up 16 saves in 17 opportunities, putting him second to the Reds' Aroldis Chapman's 19 saves in that time frame.• Sunday's 1:10 p.m. PT game between the Mariners and A's will be broadcast on 770 AM because ESPN 710 Seattle will be carrying the Seahawks' regular-season opener at the same time. • Mariners starters have thrown the most innings of any American League staff and are third in the Majors at 860 2/3 innings going into Friday's game. Seattle's starters have averaged 6.23 innings per outing and 6.61 since the All-Star break.