By Meg Wochnick The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Mariners pitchers Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma will be busy in New York attending to All-Star festivities starting Monday, but many of their teammates will also leave Seattle for the four-day break and enjoy the time off.
Outfielder Michael Saunders is heading home to Castle Rock, Colo., just outside of Denver.
His exciting plans? Relaxing.
“That’s exciting enough,” Saunders said. “Enough to be away from the game for a bit.”
But that’s not to say Saunders — and others — won’t pick up a bat during the respite. Saunders’ plans include hitting here and there to keep the rustiness away for when the club resumes play Friday with a three-game series at Houston.
“When you get a few days off,” Saunders said, “it feels a little weird when you’re used to hitting every day.”
The Mariners’ offense has delivered lately, even though the won-loss record doesn’t reflect it. Since taking two out of three from Texas, the Mariners have averaged 6.1 runs per game and have gone 4-4 heading into Saturday’s game against the Angels.
Will the All-Star break stop the recent offensive mojo? Mariners manager Eric Wedge insists the time away is good, not just physically, but mentally, too.
“Everyone needs it,” Wedge said. “It’s a long season.”
Brad Miller, who has started at shortstop and second base in 15 games since being called up from Class AAA Tacoma, has quickly moved up the farm system since being assigned to Class AA Jackson out of spring training. But Mariners fans might not have noticed the necklace he wears every game.
The initials “AG” represent Al Gale, his grandfather who died from cancer when Miller was 13.
Shortly after signing with Seattle, which drafted him out of Clemson in the second round of the 2011 draft, Miller had the necklace made.
He hasn’t taken it off since.
“It’s something I wanted to get for a long time,” Miller said. “He’s always with me.”
Pryor making progress
Reliever Stephen Pryor pitched in a simulated game Saturday, facing hitters Dustin Ackley and Franklin Gutierrez.
Wedge said Pryor, who has made a slow recovery after suffering a torn side muscle in early April, “feels good” after a second simulated appearance. The plan is to have Pryor make a start soon at Class A Everett.
Meanwhile, there’s no timetable for a rehab start for Gutierrez (hamstring) or Michael Morse (quadriceps), who both participated in a simulated game earlier in the week.