SEATTLE -- For a guy who signed with the Mariners as a projected platoon role player and veteran clubhouse leader, Raul Ibanez has turned into a remarkably productive everyday outfielder the past two months.
At 41, Ibanez is going where no Major Leaguer has gone before in terms of power production. The 18-year veteran is the first MLB player to hit 20 or more home runs before the All-Star break at age 40 or older. He hit his 22nd home run in Monday's 11-4 victory over the Red Sox and is just seven shy of Ted Williams' record of 29 home runs in a full season, the most home runs ever hit by a 41-or-older player.
Regardless of age, Ibanez is producing more than expected. He's third on the Mariners in at-bats with 254 going into Tuesday's game, behind only Kyle Seager and Kendrys Morales. Ibanez leads the team in home runs and RBIs (51) as well as slugging percentage (.563).
Ibanez hit 19 home runs last year with the Yankees, but none of those came against left-handers and he was expected to be a platoon option for Seattle as well. But he's wound up hitting eight of his 22 this year against southpaws.
According to Ibanez, it's simply a matter of playing every game as if it could be his last and making the most of every opportunity.
"I was definitely not expecting to play that much," he said. "I'm trying to enjoy it. At some point late last season, like in September, I started acting like it was my last game. I started asking myself the question, 'If it was my last game, how would I act and what would I think about and how would I prepare?' And try to enjoy it as much as you can, because at 41 years old, you can't play this game forever.
"I try to use that approach to play the game and try to hopefully share that approach with the younger guys and say, 'Hey, time goes by really fast and just enjoy this.' I'm always preparing and running around and doing things. I think now is finally where I'm kind of enjoying it and taking it in and understanding that at 41, you can't play forever and try to enjoy it as much as you can every day."
Morse getting close to Minor League rehab stint
SEATTLE -- Michael Morse has been sidelined since June 21 with a strained quadriceps in his right leg, but the outfielder has been taking batting practice with the club in recent days and putting on an impressive power shows as he nears his return to action.
Morse will hit in a simulated game situation against reliever Stephen Pryor on Wednesday and the club will then decide the next move, with a likely rehab stint coming with Triple-A Tacoma before the slugger rejoins the Mariners.
"I've been hitting every day," Morse said. "That part is there. The only thing that would hurt me is sometimes if I take a really long swing and go down on my knee. That can hurt. I just can't swing at bad pitches."
Morse has been running in the outfield and even running stairs at Safeco.
"Running is fine, it's when you start to gallop and fully extend that I feel it a little," he said.
Morse has 11 home runs and 23 RBIs with a .251 batting average in 56 games this season, but he has played through a broken finger and then an extended issue with the quad before finally going on the disabled list. Now Morse's just waiting to get the word on his Minor League rehab stint, though he'd be fine with just heading straight back into the Mariners' lineup.
"I haven't heard when or where or anything yet, but hopefully soon," Morse said. "The less I think about it and the quicker I just go out there and play, the quicker I'll be back. I don't feel like I've been out that long yet."
Ackley could make some starts in left field
SEATTLE -- Dustin Ackley was in the lineup in center field for the eighth time in Tuesday night's game against the Red Sox, but the former second baseman will eventually get some time in left field as well, according to manager Eric Wedge.
Michael Saunders was in right field Tuesday, even though he's a far more experienced center fielder. But Wedge said the decision was based on Ackley's lack of experience in right and the fact Raul Ibanez is strictly suited for left field and he was the third outfielder in this particular game.
"Dustin will eventually play some left field, too," Wedge said. "I like Ackley and I like Saunders in center field as well. I think overall the better lineup with what we have in there tonight is Ibanez in left and Saunders in right.
"But there'll be times, depending if we have other people out there, where we'd put Saunders in center and Ackley in left. But Ackley hasn't played any right field, so that's not an option for us, where Saundo can play all three."
In other words, when Michael Morse comes back and plays right field or if Jason Bay is in the lineup in right, Ackley could be shifted to left with Saunders in center. But any of those scenarios would limit Ibanez's presence in the lineup, so it remains to be seen how things play out with Ackley in the coming weeks.
Hultzen recovering from irritation in left shoulder
SEATTLE -- Danny Hultzen, the Mariners' No. 2 prospect, will remain shut down for about 10 more days as he continues recovering from irritation in his left shoulder, general manager Jack Zduriencik said Tuesday.
Hultzen, 23, is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five starts this season for Triple-A Tacoma, but he has been shut down twice now with shoulder problems.
"We're going to have Danny shut down for about 10 more days," Zduriencik said. "He'll start a throwing program. I've talked to trainers, doctors and pitching coaches. We're going to make some adjustments to his routines. We're going to look at a little bit of his mechanics. You never want to overhaul anybody, that's dangerous with pitchers, but you might look at the programs he's doing and try to make some alterations and see if that helps him.
"We're prepared to do whatever it takes. Some of this is a process where you do one thing and see where that leads you and if it takes you to step two and step three. But we're hoping when he starts throwing we'll see positive results. What I've heard is the last couple days he's felt pretty good."
Zduriencik expects Hultzen to throw again this season, but Seattle is taking the cautious approach with the second player selected in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"What we've been told is this isn't something to get overly concerned about, but it is something we need to address," Zduriencik said. "And we're looking at a lot of different things with it. His strength and conditioning program, exercising program, how he throws between starts, we'll look at all that."
Zduriencik also said that Taijuan Walker, the club's No. 1 prospect, will have an innings limit this summer, though he declined to get into specifics. Walker has thrown 100 innings so far, 84 at Double-A Jackson and 16 in three starts at Tacoma, where he's gone 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in three starts.
"We have a target number for Taijuan," Zduriencik said. "He's a young kid and you have to be careful with him. We'll do what is in Taijuan's best interest, because ultimately that's in our best interest, too. We just need Taijuan to continue to pitch and we'll see how it all plays out."
• Ibanez has hit 32 home runs since turning 40 on June 2 last season while with the Yankees. He hit just 28 home runs in 371 games in the Majors prior to turning 30.
• Going into Tuesday's game, the Mariners were 6-1 with Brad Miller starting at shortstop and 3-1 with him batting leadoff.
• James Paxton, the Mariners' No. 4 prospect, threw a five-hit complete game shutout for Triple-A Tacoma on Monday as Tacoma beat Tucson 7-0. Paxton walked two and struck out four while throwing 104 pitches for his first shutout in pro ball. The lefty is 6-6 with a 4.63 ERA in 18 starts this season.