Young offense shows Wedge it’s improving

NOTEBOOK: Manager wants each player to do things in offseason to get better at plate

Staff writerOctober 1, 2012 

Oakland – The questions tossed at Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge on Sunday morning were about his team’s offense, some of the individual players who have struggled in 2012, and the future of the organization.

“It doesn’t show in the numbers, but I see indicators – (Dustin) Ackley getting on top of the ball more – that (Justin) Smoak, Ackley, (Michael) Saunders and (Jesus) Montero are going to be good big-league hitters,” Wedge said.

Wedge said he also likes what he’s seen of infielder Carlos Triunfel, sees young players trying to take on leadership roles since Ichiro Suzuki departed and that the Mariners will send virtually every player on their roster home with explicit instructions on what to do before spring training.

“It’s not just me, now. These kids recognize what they need to do to compete at this level, what they have to work on,” Wedge said. “But we’ll talk to each of them about what we want, whether it’s to work on fundamentals or physical changes we want.”

Smoak, for instance, was asked to lose weight last year and he came in leaner. This fall, he’ll be asked to get stronger.

“Saunders has always been a complete player in ability, and this season he’s shown that, whether it’s his stolen bases (23), his home runs (19) or the beginning of a leadership role in the clubhouse,” Wedge said. “He’ll get better because he’s seen what hard work can do.”

HEALTHY OFFSEASON

Wedge was asked before the game what outfielder Franklin Gutierrez had to do during the offseason.

“Prove to us he can stay healthy,” Wedge said.

Gutierrez then doubled twice and scored in three innings – but came out of the game with tightness in his groin.

“He’s day-to-day,” Wedge said. “He’s got to show us he can stay healthy, and he hasn’t been able to do that in my time here.”

RUNNING ON EMPTY

Just how bad are the Mariners with runners in scoring position?

Going into Sunday’s game, they’d gone 0-for-14 in that situation the first two games of this series – then went 5-for-15 Sunday and still scored only two runs.

SHORT HOPS

Michael Saunders has 19 homers this season, which includes eight against left-handed pitching. That ranks sixth in the American League among left-handed hitters. … With two hits Sunday, Smoak brought his batting average up to .214 – 25 points higher than it was 23 games ago. … Kyle Seager’s 84 RBI rank him third among AL third baseman, trailing Miguel Cabrera (136) and Adrian Beltre (100). … Bunting woes? In the seventh inning, with Brendan Ryan at second base and no one out, Trayvon Robinson fouled off two bunt attempts, then singled Ryan to third.

ON TAP

Seattle begins its final series of the season, hosting the Los Angeles Angels in a 7:10 p.m. game today that will be televised on Root Sports. C.J. Wilson (12-10, 3.86 ERA) will start for the Angels against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (13-8, 2.86).

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