SEATTLE -- When looking for an unsung hero for the Mariners through the first three months of the season, Endy Chavez would be a good place to start.
The 35-year-old outfielder has hit .283 in 54 games before Wednesday while filling the leadoff role and playing excellent defense after signing with Seattle as a Minor League free agent late in Spring Training.
With Franklin Gutierrez's injury issues, Chavez has stepped into the void and recorded at least one hit in 35 of 41 starts while putting up a .353 on-base percentage. He hit just .203 with a .236 on-base percentage in 64 games for the Orioles last year.
"He's done a nice job for us," manager Eric Wedge said. "With Gutierrez not being here and Michael Saunders' struggles, he's picked up the slack for us leading off. It's been a big help for us."
Chavez might see his playing time diminish with the addition of Dustin Ackley to the outfield mix and the eventual return of Michael Morse, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained quad. But he has proved a valuable part of the Mariners' mix this year, and his 184 at-bats entering Wednesday were already his most in all but two seasons since 2007.
Ackley out of lineup while adjusting to outfield
SEATTLE -- Dustin Ackley was not in the Mariners' lineup Wednesday after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma a day earlier, as manager Eric Wedge said he wanted to give the former second baseman some time to get comfortable in his new outfield position before sticking him in a game.
With Ackley arriving shortly before game time Tuesday, and then the Mariners not holding any pregame workout Wednesday because of the early 12:40 p.m. PT start time, there was not any time to take balls in the outfield before the series finale with the Pirates.
"I thought about it long and hard," Wedge said. "I just didn't want to send him out there his first day [back] in the big leagues, day game after a night game, not really doing anything on the field pregame so he doesn't get a chance to get the [outfield] reps here, which he's never really done here.
"I just felt it would be pushing a bad play, so I've already talked to him about it, and we'll give him a chance to watch our game, maybe help us late and then we'll get him in here after that. I just want him to have a chance to work out here before we send him out there."
Ackley played mostly first base at North Carolina after having Tommy John elbow surgery, but he was drafted as an outfielder. He said he played just five to 10 games in the outfield at North Carolina, but he did play quite a bit there in summer ball and the Arizona Fall League his first year after getting drafted before the Mariners shifted him to second base.
But he said he adjusted quickly to the position after playing nine games in center and three in left field for Tacoma over the past two weeks.
"It's been going great," Ackley said. "I've had almost two weeks in the outfield down there, and it's gone better than expected. I first thought I might be a little lost when I got out there, but kind of right away the first game everything felt pretty good. The biggest transition was just getting my body used to the extra running and the longer throws. But other than that, it's been going great."
It also went well at the plate for Ackley, as he hit .365 with 14 RBIs and 21 runs in 25 games for Tacoma after batting .205 for the Mariners in a rough start to the season.
"It was more the mental side of it," he said. "I think the last two days I was here I started to get on the right track of how I needed to feel and think. When I got down there, all of the sudden things started to take off. I started to feel great; we were winning, I was hitting well.
"When you have all those things, it just compounds and you're feeling great, no pressure to play, and that's what I got away from here. I was thinking about the result and too much about what I was doing at the plate. I just need to see the ball and go out there and play."
Wedge ensures Wilhelmsen's relief ends perfectly
SEATTLE -- There is nothing like a three-up, three-down inning with three strikeouts to bolster a reliever's confidence, so Mariners manager Eric Wedge got Tom Wilhelmsen out of Tuesday's 9-4 loss to the Pirates as soon as the big right-hander put up the perfect seventh inning.
"I planned on him going two innings, but he was going so good that one inning I wanted to get him out of there and just end on a really good note," Wedge said prior to Wednesday afternoon's series finale. "I think that's the beginning of the path for him being on the way back."
Wilhelmsen has been temporarily removed from the closer's role after allowing 15 runs (14 earned) over his last 15 appearances and converting only five of his last 10 save opportunities. But Wedge fully expects to get him back in the closing mix soon and liked what he saw Tuesday.
"It's huge, and I think that again it starts with just being on top of the baseball and driving it down and being on line with the fastball," Wedge said. "He does that and that shortens up his breaking ball, and he's able to command a little bit better, it's a little bit sharper and that's what you saw last night. He did a good job mixing his changeup in, too."
Wilhelmsen put away all three hitters he faced with curve balls but downplayed that Wednesday.
"It's nothing that I have done any differently; I often go to that pitch with two strikes," he said. "I guess it was [sharper]. They missed them, or they didn't swing at them. I'll take it. It was a step in the right direction."
• Veteran right-hander Josh Kinney pitched a scoreless inning of relief Tuesday for Triple-A Tacoma and is getting closer to being ready to return to the Majors after dealing with a rib injury since Spring Training. Kinney has allowed three earned runs in 8 1/3 innings over eight appearances with Tacoma over the past two weeks.
• Kyle Seager was tied for ninth in the American League in extra-base hits going into Wednesday's action with 33 (22 doubles, one triple and 10 home runs). He had 56 extra-base hits last year and is on pace for 69 this season.
• Friday's series opener against the Cubs will feature the first postgame fireworks show in Safeco Field history.