SEATTLE -- When they moved the fences in at Safeco Field this season, the assumption was home runs would come easier. That hasn't translated too much yet in the Mariners' first 18 home games, but it is interesting that first baseman Justin Smoak has hit doubles in his last four games at Safeco going into Saturday's game with the A's.
The only previous Mariners to double in four straight games at Safeco were Ichiro Suzuki in 2002 and Michael Morse in '06.
Smoak has been hitting the ball hard recently, and while it hasn't paid off in home runs yet, he's hit .318 (14-for-44) over his last 13 games to raise his batting average from .188 to .239.
"I haven't really felt bad all year," Smoak said. "I've hit balls hard. I just have to keep having good at-bats and squaring balls up, and sooner or later they'll start going over the fence or in the gap. I just have to keep doing it."
As for the recent run of doubles?
"I don't know," Smoak said. "It's coincidence. It's baseball. The fences are in a little bit, but it still hasn't really warmed up here yet. It's still playing normal. But it's one of those things where I feel like I'm having good at-bats. Every ball I hit last night was on the barrel. I'm starting to feel better and better, and you just have to keep having good at-bats and good things are going to happen."
Ibanez benefits from getting limited at-bats
SEATTLE -- For Raul Ibanez, it seems like less has been more when it comes to having success at the plate this season.
When injuries to Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders left the Mariners low on outfielders, Ibanez was needed for a much larger role than initially expected and the results weren't pretty. He was in a 1-for-23 slump and hitting .148 when Saunders finally returned and gave manager Eric Wedge more options.
Since then, Ibanez has hit .400 in limited duty, with a double, triple and home run in 10 at-bats, including a critical three-run blast in Friday's 6-3 win over the A's.
Thus, Wedge had the 40-year-old back in the lineup Saturday against another right-hander in Jarrod Parker, but will bring Jason Bay back on Sunday against southpaw Tommy Milone.
"We were forced to play everybody just a little bit too much early on there and I think that worked against us a little bit," Wedge said prior to Saturday's game. "But we were able to get Jason going a little bit and I feel like he's in a pretty good place, and I'd like to do the same thing with Raul.
"We'll get Jason back in there tomorrow. Just trying to run that balance. But obviously Raul had a big hit for us last night and has been swinging the bat better in BP, and the double the other night. This was a good chance to get him back in there."
Injured Pryor continues to make progress
SEATTLE -- Mariners reliever Stephen Pryor played short catch from 45 feet on Saturday for the third time this week as he begins returning from a torn right latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder.
Pryor is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list as soon as he's fully recovered, but that doesn't figure to be until June at the earliest.
"I've been playing catch, doing a lot of lower-body workouts," he said. "But that's about it for now. I think I'm right on schedule. I don't know what that means as far as getting on the mound, but hopefully in the next few weeks."
The big right-hander admits he's "antsy" watching his teammates play every day, but takes some solace in knowing the recovery process is at least underway.
"I'm just throwing real short right now, just testing the waters to make sure everything's good," he said. "Then we'll lengthen it out as far as distance and amount, and I'll see how I hold up. Then I'll get on the mound from there."
• Gutierrez will run the bases for the first time on Sunday as he continues working back from a strained right hamstring that has had him on the disabled list since April 23. Gutierrez took batting practice Friday for the first time and is slowly progressing.
"He's moving around a little more," said Wedge. "When we go on the road we'll leave him back and let him continue to work. We're going to look to have him run the bases tomorrow a little bit and see how that feels. Work early in the week, maybe run the bases again in the middle of the week and then see where we are from there."
• Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims is missing the weekend series with the A's as he's in Philadelphia being added to the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Roll of Fame. Rick Rizzs and Mike Blowers are handling TV duties in his absence, with Aaron Goldsmith joined by Gary Hill on the radio side.