ARLINGTON -- After getting off to a quick start with the bat this season, Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan has seen his production plummet in the past 10 games and was replaced by Robert Andino in the starting lineup for Friday's series opener against the Rangers.
Ryan was hitting .357 through his first five starts, but has since gone 2-for-28 to see that number fall to .167. Ryan is an outstanding defender, but the Mariners feel he's a much better hitter than the .194 he posted last season.
"He should be our best bunter," said manager Eric Wedge. "He's got to get the bunt down. We just need him to turn the corner. We've talked about it before. He gets in his own way too much. He has to get beyond that somehow."
Thus Andino's appearance on Friday. The veteran utility infielder is hitting just .154 himself (4-for-26), though he went 2-for-3 on Thursday when he started at third base for Kyle Seager.
"I want to get Robert in there a little more," Wedge said. "He did some things yesterday and Ryan has had his struggles. So I'm just trying to put the best team out there right now. To help get Robert on track, we've got to play him a little more."
Gutierrez gets day off as legs continue to be issue
ARLINGTON -- Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez wasn't in the Mariners' starting lineup for the fifth time in the past seven days on Friday as he continues dealing with sore legs that have hampered him since Spring Training.
Gutierrez, 30, started nine of the Mariners' first 11 games and came off the bench in the other two, but he's been limited to just two starts and one late-inning relief appearance in seven games since April 12.
"We're still trying to help him with his lower half," manager Eric Wedge said before Friday's series opener with the Rangers. "I think it stems from his hips, where he gets a little out of line and that's what affects his legs. He didn't feel very good yesterday. He feels better today, so we'll see how his [pregame] work goes out here and go from there."
Health issues aren't new for Gutierrez, who had four different stints on the disabled list over the past two seasons when he played just 132 of the 324 games. Wedge acknowledged it makes for a difficult situation, not knowing his availability on a consistent basis.
"We're trying to manage it," Wedge said. "It's tough, but I talked to him again today. We'll just keep communicating with him, the trainers keep working on him and we're hopeful we can get on the good side of this."
Capps relishing increased role in Mariners' bullpen
ARLINGTON -- Carter Capps was pumped about picking up his first career victory on Thursday against the Tigers, but the young reliever was more interested in talking about what that meant for his Mariners team.
"I was obviously very excited, but more than anything, it was a good momentum builder for us as a team," said the hard-throwing right-hander. "We beat [Justin] Verlander and that's always an accomplishment. Our offense hit late. Hopefully we can keep it going here in Texas. The ball flies a little bit here, so our offense should do good things this series."
Capps, 22, pitched one perfect inning at Rangers Ballpark last season after getting called up midseason, so he's familiar with the hitter-friendly stadium, but he says it doesn't change anything for him.
"They all work the same, if you keep it on the ground and they hit it at somebody," he said. "Even in Safeco, the ball still flies. It's not like dead air. You've got to keep the ball down everywhere."
With Stephen Pryor on the disabled list, Capps has moved into the late-inning setup role in the bullpen. He threw the seventh and eighth innings on Thursday before turning it over to closer Tom Wilhelmsen.
"I still have to put up zeros, no matter what inning," Capps said. "If I go in the third, I'll try to put up zeros. I don't want anybody to score. I don't mind if they get on, but if they cross the plate, we've got a problem. That's my mentality."
And after pitching back-to-back games, including Thursday's 40-pitch outing, he's ready to keep rolling.
"If that phone rings tonight and they call my name, I'll be ready to go," said the North Carolina native. "I love it."
But manager Eric Wedge said he needs to be careful with not overworking the youngster. The makeup of the bullpen has changed dramatically with Yoervis Medina, Hector Noesi and Blake Beavan now the right-handers behind Wilhelmsen and Capps, now that Pryor and Josh Kinney are on the disabled list and Kameron Loe was designated for assignment.
"Our bullpen has different people down there right now," Wedge said. "He really stepped up for us [Thursday] and we're going to need other people to step up, too. We can't pitch him every night."
• Outfielder Michael Saunders took batting practice on Friday for the first time since spraining his shoulder on April 11 and will begin throwing in a few more days. Saunders is shooting to be ready to come off the disabled list when he's eligible next Friday.
"His BP looked good, so that was a good start for him," said Wedge. "He was swinging, but keeping both hands on the bat and not releasing to protect it a little bit. We've got to just keep baby-stepping everything."
• Tom Wilhelmsen went into Friday's games tied for the American League lead with six saves and each of those protected a win for six different pitchers -- Felix Hernandez, Kameron Loe, Joe Saunders, Hisashi Iwakuma, Brandon Maurer and Carter Capps.
• Kyle Seager's pinch-hit double in Thursday's 2-0 victory over the Tigers moved him into the Major League lead with eight two-baggers in the team's first 17 games.