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Kirby Arnold | karnold@heraldnet.com
Published: Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 11:06 p.m.

Bitter end in 2-1 loss to Twins; Gutierrez to be activated; Wilhelmsen to AA Jackson

Aside from the entertainment of ire and spittle provided by manager Eric Wedge in the ninth inning of tonight’s 2-1 Mariners loss to the Twins, the M’s also made some news.

Wedge said that center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, diagnosed this spring with irritable bowel syndrome, would be activated from the disabled list and start Wednesday night’s game against the Angels. To make room for Gutierrez on the roster, the Mariners will send relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen to Class AA Jackson, where he will be built up as a starting pitcher.

By moving Wilhelmsen, the Mariners give themselves plenty of outfield backups to cover for the two days off per week that Gutierrez will need early, plus coverage in left field among Carlos Peguero, Michael Saunders and Mike Wilson.

It also leaves the Mariners with a six-man bullpen. It’s a setup that we’ve seen backfire a lot of times when it’s been tried, although it just might work considering how the Mariners’ starters have gone deep into games.

Still, Wedge knocked on wood as he explained the situation.

“You look at the way our starting pitching has been (he knocked on the lectern at this point), they’ve been very consistent getting us late into ballgames,” Wedge said.

It’s definitely a risk, especially when you consider that the Mariners are in the midst of 10 games in 10 days and 30 in 31 days. May 26 will be their only day off until June 16.

That can be a burden on a pitching staff, but the Mariners will hope their starters continue their trend to pitch deep and, when they do need bullpen help, operate with the comfort that nearly every reliever is capable of pitching multiple innings.

As for tonight’s game, it got off to a frustrating start when Felix Hernandez battled his control and allowed two runs in the first inning, then ended in anger after second-base umpire Jerry Meals called Miguel Olivo out on a key force play.

The Mariners trailed 2-1 but Olivo had drawn a one-out walk off Twins right-hander Matt Capps. Jack Cust followed with a grounder to third, where Danny Valencia fielded the ball and threw to second to force out Olivo on a really close play. At least, that’s how Meals saw it, and called it.

Olivo saw it differently and immediately jumped to his feet and into Meals’ face. In the dugout, Wedge as he pushed off the top step and unleashed a big spit into the dirt in front of the dugout, the beginning of a firm trot toward the umpire. Wedge let Meals have it, to the point where the ump tossed him. It was Wedge’s first ejection as the Mariners’ manager.

“I thought Miguel beat it, but obviously they didn’t see it that way,” Wedge said. “It was a big play late in the ballgame. When you’re in a tight ballgame, that’s usually the difference.”

Adam Kennedy, pinch-hitting for Jack Wilson, grounded out to second base to end the game with Carlos Peguero on deck prepared to pinch-hit for Mike Wilson.

“Who knows what happens from there? It gets us another man down the line and we’ve got a runner in scoring position,” Wedge said. “It’s a totally different game. That’s the way it goes.”


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