SEATTLE — Kyle Seager’s two homers and career-high five RBIs didn’t just happen Wednesday when he propelled the Seattle Mariners to a 5-3 victory over the Houston Astros at Safeco Field.
There were some lengthy sessions with hitting coach Howard Johnson in an effort to end an early-season slump.
“We’ve been basically just trying to find his rhythm,” Johnson said. “A lot of it is hand positioning. He’s been kind of getting around pitches. When he’s going bad, that’s what he’s doing.
“He’s been a lot better, (Wednesday) especially. The last couple of days, he’s been better as far as like trying to stay through the ball a little bit longer.”
Seager was the Mariners’ player of the year in each of the past two seasons but entered Wednesday with a .156 average through 19 games, with no homers and two RBIs.
“It’s felt better the last couple of days,” Seager said. “Today, it kind of showed up. But at the same time, everything is so magnified at the beginning of the year. You don’t have anything to talk about, basically.”
“So, definitely good to get on the board.”
ROSTER MOVES LIKELY
Infielder Nick Franklin tweeted Wednesday night that he has been optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma and will join the Rainiers for Thursday’s series opener at Las Vegas (Mets).
Franklin tweeted: “Las Vegas here I come.”
There was no immediate confirmation from the Mariners on any transactions, but Franklin likely won’t be the only roster move before Friday’s series opener against Texas at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez is facing a likely demotion to Tacoma after a series of poor starts left him at 1-3 with a 6.75 earned-run average.
“That’s a fair assessment,” manager Lloyd McClendon acknowledged before Wednesday’s series finale against Houston. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do right now.”
Ramirez opened the season by holding the Angels to two runs in seven innings in an 8-3 victory in Anaheim, Calif. Since then, he’s 0-3 in four starts while allowing 16 runs and 21 hits in 17 innings.
Outfielder Cole Gillespie is expected to be selected from the Rainiers and added to the roster. He created a stir by batting .433 in spring training and is batting .362 at Tacoma with five homers and 14 RBIs in 16 games.
The Mariners seem likely to replace Ramirez with a reliever because they won’t need a fifth starter, because of open dates, until May 2. Their hope is All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma might be ready at that point.
Iwakuma is slotted for a rehab start Sunday for Tacoma at Las Vegas in what could be the final test in his recovery from a strained ligament in his middle finger.
The only two relievers currently on the Mariners’ 40-man roster are left-hander Lucas Luetge and right-hander Stephen Pryor. Both are pitching at Tacoma.
Luetge, 27, made two appearances earlier this season after a previous recall. Pryor, 24, is battling to regain his form after missing most of last season following surgery to repair a torn back muscle.
Dustin Ackley returned to the No. 8 spot in the order after going hitless in eight at-bats, with six strikeouts, in two days as the No. 2 hitter.
“It didn’t work; I was wrong with that,” McClendon said. “I tried. I liked him in the eighth spot. It’s probably my mistake. I should have left him in the eighth spot because he was doing very well down there.
“He’s going back to the eighth spot. Right now, I’m going to leave him there and let him flourish there. Just like I’m going to leave (Mike) Zunino at the bottom of the order. Let him flourish there.
“We’ll see how it goes in the second half of the season. But for right now, I think that’s the right thing to do.”
CLEARED TO THROW
Two of the Mariners’ prized young arms, left-hander James Paxton and right-hander Taijuan Walker, received clearance Wednesday to begin playing catch as the next step in their recovery from injuries.
Paxton, 25, should begin light throwing Friday after being diagnosed with a strained back muscle (left latissimus dorsi) after a 5-3 victory over the Angels on April 8.
Even so, club officials indicated earlier this week that Paxton isn’t likely to be ready for active duty before mid- to late May. He was 2-0 with a 2.25 earned-run average in his two starts before the injury.
“They haven’t shown me a throwing program yet,” he said. “So we’ll have to see how that develops. I think they want to see how I feel after the first day of playing catch. So far, it’s all been going really well.”
Walker, 21, battled a sore shoulder in spring training but appeared close to reclaiming his spot in the rotation before the problem returned ahead of a planned April 15 rehab start for Tacoma.
Plans call for Walker to start playing catch Monday. Club officials believe, barring further setbacks, Walker could make a rapid recovery because his endurance was almost back to desired levels before the latest incident.
Seager has had a trio of two-homer games, but Wednesday’s was his first one at Safeco. The others were May 2, 2012, at Tampa Bay, and Aug. 25, 2012, at the Chicago White Sox. … Seager’s five RBIs were a career best. He had four RBIs six previous times. … The Mariners’ last walk-off victory was June 28, when Zunino had an RBI single in the 10th inning of a 5-4 victory over the White Sox. … Mariners starters have not allowed more than three earned runs in any of the club’s eight home games. … Zunino threw out Dexter Fowler on an attempted steal of second base in the first inning. Zunino has thrown out four of the past seven opponents attempting to steal. … Corey Hart has reached base at least once in the past eight games and is batting .355 (11-for-31) in that span.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before concluding their homestand with a three-game series against the Texas Rangers. Left-hander Roenis Elias (1-2, 3.22 ERA) will start the opener at 7:10 p.m. Friday against Texas right-hander Robbie Ross Jr. (1-1, 2.31). Root Sports will televise the game.