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July 2, 2013 at 4:02 PM

Wilhelmsen close to regaining closer’s job, Wedge says

Tom Wilhelmsen, demoted as Mariners closer after a binge of blown saves, is close to regaining the job, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said today.

Wilhelmsen has had three straight clean outings, working 2 2/3 innings in that span without giving up a hit or walk while striking out four. Wedge said he’ll probably remain in a setup role for a little while longer, however.

“We’ll probably give him another outing or two, but he’s been much more consistent, much more like his old self,” Wedge said.

Dustin Ackley returns to the lineup after missing Sunday’s game with a sprained left thumb. Michael Saunders, however, remains sidelined with a finger injury.

“It feels good,” Ackley said. “I went and hit in the cage. I think if it was hindering my performance, they would have probably shut me down, but it felt fine. Those two days off, the Sunday and Monday, were huge to rest it and get the sweilling down and get the soreness out. It’s still a little sore, but it feels fine enough to play.”

Saunders, who hit and threw today, says he’s getting close to being ready.

“Now we’re waiting for the swelling to go down a little bit, but I’m definitely available if need be,” he said. “I feel I’ve come a long ways just in the last couple of days.”

Michael Morse, on the disabled list with a right quad strain, is on the trip. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday, the first day of a series in Cincinnati.

“He’s coming along,” Wedge said. “That’s why we wanted to bring him with us. He’s going to keep doing some work.”

Wedge said the team still hasn’t decided if Morse will need a rehab stint in the minors, but they want him to be able to run and cut.

“We have to make sure that’s all behind him so he’s available in the outfield when he does come back,” Wedge said.

Raul Ibanez, who led the Mariners in home runs (10) and RBI (22) in June, is the oldest American League player to lead a team in both categories in a calendar month since Dave Winfield with the Twins in July of 1993 at age 41. Ibanez is also 41. The only older player to do so was Barry Bonds of the Giants in April of 2007 at age 42.

“Very impressive,” Wedge said. “Not just the home runs, but he gets big hits too. He’s a clutch player, too. He wants to be in that situation. You look at what he does, and what (Kendrys) Morales does with runners in scoring position, that’s really been our Achilles. Everyone else can draw from that, watch and learn from it. They can thrive more in those situations and we’d be a completely different ballclub.”

As a team, the Mariners are hitting .226 with runners in scoring position, worst in the majors. Ibanez is at .327 (18-for-55) in those situations, while Morales is hitting .357 (25-for-70).





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