By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners made a lineup shift Sunday that may become permanent.
Kyle Seager was moved to third in the order. Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse were each bumped down a spot to fourth and fifth, respectively.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge is trying to find the best spots for Morales and Morse, whom he calls the “key” to the Mariners’ offense. Seager was 1-for-3 Sunday, Morales hit a three-run homer and Morse had two hits, though one was an infield dribbler mishandled by the A’s.
“I’m playing around with it a little bit,” Wedge said. “I still stand by the fact that Morales and Morse are both trying to do too much. They know they’re the guys here. I think that with that, I think sometimes you put a little too much pressure on yourself to do too much.”
Morse and Morales each said postgame they didn’t care where they hit in the order.
“The last thing that I care about,” Morse said of his spot.
Wedge said he thinks both Morales (.262) and Morse (.230) are “pressing.” As a result, he feels like each is swinging at pitches out of the strike zone too often.
Numbers from Fangraphs.com show Morse is swinging at would-be balls slightly above his career average. Morales is actually below his.
Morse’s contact percentage is significantly down, however. He has struck out often throughout his career, but has seen an uptick this season. He’s on pace to strike out 155 times if he has 500 at-bats.
“It’s been frustrating,” Morse said. “I’m trying to see a slider for a strike, so, it’s a game of adjustments and it’s still early.”
Wedge said he may stick with this lineup, but also said he was not “locked in” either way. He thinks Seager can hit second, third or fifth.
Wedge said center fielder Franklin Gutierrez (hamstring) could be sent on a rehabilitation assignment at the end of next week. He also said he needs to see Gutierrez play in the field for consecutive days prior to deciding he’s ready to rejoin the Mariners.
“I’m not looking for him to come back and be just OK to play,” Wedge said. “We’ve done that. It hasn’t worked. When he comes back, he’s got to be ready to go. We’ll let that dictate how long it takes.
“The other way doesn’t work. Hasn’t worked. For three years. He’s going to have to come here and be able to play. I need to see him play every day.”
Before his lat injury, reliever Stephen Pryor was thriving in the set up role. In seven innings, he had struck out seven and had not given up a run.
Pryor was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 15 with a tear in his right latissimus dorsi muscle. Wedge said Pryor will be re-evaluated when the club returns from its next road trip and is still a ways from returning.
The Mariners travel to New York today to start a three-game series with the Yankees. Tuesday, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (5-2, 1.53 earned run average) faces CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.23 ERA).