Mariners notes: Wedge close to returning

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge could return to the dugout during the team’s next homestand, acting manager Robby Thompson said Thursday.

The Mariners have six games left on their current trip — three in Texas and three at Oakland — meaning Wedge could return Aug. 23, when the Los Angeles Angels visit Safeco Field.

“There’s a real good chance that he will join us when we get back,” Thompson said. “As it stands right now, I’m not 100 percent sure on that, but that’s kind of what we’re hoping. He sounds great. Each and every day he’s feeling better. He’s following all the rules and guidelines that he should be doing. He’s determined to get through this thing and get back in it and continue where he left off.”

It isn’t yet certain if Wedge will immediately return to the full managerial duties he handled before suffering what was called a “mild stroke” on July 22.

“We talked briefly about it,” Thompson said. “I’m sure with the doctors and all, they’re trying to come up with a game plan, not only through them but for himself as far as easing back into it. We’ll talk again in Texas and then in Oakland. It’s off of what Eric wants to do. We’ll have an answer to that before he comes back on the homestand.”

Managerial challenges

Thompson and Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon each said they hadn’t had much chance Thursday to study the proposal that could allow major-league managers to challenge calls on everything but balls and strikes next season.

However, neither expressed any problem with the concept.

“It’s like the (current home run rule),” Thompson said. “If you want them to go to review it, you challenge them to review it.”

Maddon didn’t like the implications of allowing one challenge over the first six innings and two over the final three.

“I just don’t like the idea that the earlier part of the game is considered less important than the latter part of the game,” he said. “… It’s very difficult for me to try to tell you what’s going to be the most significant moment in that game in regards to an umpire’s decision. But having said all that, of course I’m into it, because I think it’s better than not having those things.”

Thompson expressed concern that the challenges could stretch the length of games.

Maddon said he never worries about game length, but also suggested the new rule could actually shorten games.

“I don’t anticipate this being a lengthy thing,” he said. “And also it’s going to be a lot less lengthy than me going out there and arguing and then not being satisfied and staying out there a little bit longer.”

Short hops

n After three-games against Tampa Bay — the second-place team in the American League East — the Mariners’ road trip continues against a couple of other AL West teams with pennant aspirations: Texas (today through Sunday) and Oakland (Monday through Wednesday).

“They have their goals, we have our goals: that’s just try to come out here and win as many games as we can no matter who we play,” Thompson said. “But yeah, this is a tough road trip. It’s a big test for us.”

n The Rays had an unusual clubhouse visitor Thursday: a 20-foot python Maddon invited over from Busch Gardens in nearby Tampa.

“2013 happens to be the Year of the Snake on the Chinese calendar,” Maddon explained. “It’s representative of risk-taking and creative thinking — the 2013 Year of the Snake. … I thought it fit in perfectly with what we’re trying to do around here. Again, I thought coming off the (0-5) West Coast trip the guys were a little bit uptight about things. We needed to loosen things up, and what better way to do that than with a 20-foot python?”

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