SEATTLE -- Utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki, all 165 pounds of him, has continued preparing as the Mariners' emergency third catcher during the absence of injured starter Miguel Olivo.
Kawasaki has never caught in a game but has done some work in the bullpen since Olivo strained his groin on April 30. With backup John Jaso hampered by a sore shoulder after taking a hard foul ball while behind the plate on Monday, Kawasaki could be moving up the depth chart.
Wedge said Jaso was available Wednesday if needed, but Kawasaki is becoming more of an option if something happens to rookie Jesus Montero. When Montero and Jaso were both in the lineup on Monday, Wedge said he told bench coach Robby Thompson to let Kawasaki know he might be needed in the bullpen between innings one frame when Montero was the fourth batter due up.
"I was thinking, if Montero makes the last out, we could really hustle and get him together and send him down there, realizing it would be a tough push," Wedge said. "Robby said, 'Look down there.' And Mune is in full gear, head to toe, with the mask. I said, 'Don't worry about Jesus. Send Mune down there.'
"So that's what we did. I mean, head to toe, ready to rock and roll. I couldn't disappoint the guy. I had to let him go. He did a full-out sprint to the bullpen and there you go."
Wedge said it's just another sign of what Kawasaki has brought to the club as a free agent out of Japan, where he was an eight-time All-Star shortstop.
"He's off the charts with his attitude and approach and energy day to day," said Wedge. "He's so consistent. Obviously he hasn't been playing much, but he's ready to go every day. He's a treat to have."
Olivo is on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma and is expected to rejoin the Mariners by this weekend.
Liddi atones for miscue in second start in left
SEATTLE -- Alex Liddi made his second start in left field Wednesday for the Mariners and committed a two-base error on the only ball hit his way, but the Italian rookie more than made up for that with a grand slam in Seattle's 5-3 win over the Rangers.
Liddi handled five routine fly balls without trouble in his initial outfield start last Thursday in Cleveland but didn't get his glove on a high shot to the corner by Texas catcher Yorvit Torrealba leading off the third on Wednesday.
Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood saved Liddi any grief by retiring the next three batters, and the youngster repaid him with his first career grand slam in the fifth.
"I couldn't tell how far the fence was from me, and when I looked up, the ball kind of went into the sun," Liddi said. "Of course [Milllwood] picked me up in that situation. That's what you're supposed to do for your teammates and it helped to relax me when they didn't score."
Manager Eric Wedge said prior to Wednesday's game that Liddi had handled everything fine in his outfield debut but added a disclaimer.
"He hasn't really had that tough one yet. Sure as I say it, it will probably happen today, it's just inevitable," Wedge said. "But I think that needs to be an option for us for him. If you're talking about a guy who can play first, third and left field, you've got a lot of value there -- with some thump in his bat. I want to try to get him in there more, so this is the way to do it."
Wedge ruefully noted his pregame chat afterward, but was happy with the final outcome.
"He was fighting the sun a little bit, and the glare," said the skipper. "It wasn't really a sunny day, but it was a bright day. That and the fact it looked like he was trying to find the fence out there. I think we talked about that before the game, so of course it played out that way. But you have to tip your cap to Kevin. Nobody out right there in that situation and he's able to leave him out there."
As for Liddi, the game-winning grand slam provided some salvation, but he wasn't about to forget the awkward error.
"Of course it helped," he said. "But at same time I have to work on it. It's a new position and I have to get better."
Gutierrez runs lightly, could return by late June
SEATTLE -- Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, sidelined since early in Spring Training with a torn pectoral muscle and then a sore heel, did some light running under the watchful eye of trainer Rick Griffin on Wednesday morning at Safeco Field.
Gutierrez took batting practice with the team for the first time on Tuesday. He'll continue working with the team this week, then fly to Arizona on Sunday and begin playing extended spring training games with Minor League players on Monday.
Manager Eric Wedge said he expects Gutierrez will play five or six days in Peoria before going out on a Minor League rehab assignment with either Double-A Jackson or Triple-A Tacoma. Once his rehab starts, he'll have a maximum of 20 days, per Major League rules, before he'll need to be recalled.
Thus, if all goes well and Gutierrez stays on schedule, he'd likely be back with the Mariners in late June.
Asked if he was pleased with Gutierrez's progress this week, Wedge said: "I'll be pleased when he's back with us."
In the meantime, Wedge has been happy with the performance of Michael Saunders in center field in the absence of the Gold Glover.
"He's real good out there," Wedge said. "This is a guy who really worked hard last year, and arguably improved as much as any outfielder. If you talk about being comfortable, getting to be pretty good, getting to be good and then getting to be better than that, that's what we've seen with him."
Wedge open to talk of moving Safeco fences
SEATTLE -- After the Mariners hit two deep drives to the wall that were hauled in by Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton in Tuesday's 3-1 loss, manager Eric Wedge was asked about the potential of the Safeco Field fences someday being brought in.
Wedge reiterated the stance the club made last offseason, that the idea has been discussed and will continue to be evaluated with input from general manager Jack Zduriencik and the rest of the front office.
"Jack and I talk every day," Wedge said. "Jack talks to the powers that be on a daily basis. When the season is done, we're going to talk about everything. And I mean everything, both on and off the field, in regard to the field and anything surrounding that. I'll leave it at that.
"The longer I'm here -- nothing is going to happen this season, obviously -- but it allows me to give it another four months to take a peek at it, too. I have my thoughts, of which I will not let you in on, but it's safe to say we'll evaluate everything when the season is over."
Wedge did say the club can't allow the deep fences to "be a crutch" when the team struggles offensively.
"There are no excuses here," he said. "These players are young enough and tough enough now where they're going to be able to handle anything that comes their way. Having said that, they're human. If there's a ball you hit right on the screws and it's right at the third baseman or one you hit you feel is gone and they grab it, you're going to have human moments. I accept that."