Robert Andino has been installed as the team's starting shortstop for now.
HOUSTON — After waiting a year-plus on Brendan Ryan to find his bat, the Mariners are going in a different direction for the time being.
Robert Andino has been installed as the team’s starting shortstop while Ryan is moved to a backup role as he tries to figure out how to start hitting again. Ryan is batting just .143 this season, and while Andino is hitting only .176 after a run-scoring single in the ninth on Wednesday, the hope is he’ll pick things up if given more playing time.
“What I’m going to do is take it day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month, quite frankly,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “And I’m going to give Robert a chance to play and see where he takes it. I liked what I saw with his work and his approach this spring. I don’t feel like it’s been as good here in-season.
“But I feel like he’s been a little bit better here the last week in the cage.”
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Wedge said Ryan was given “every opportunity” last year to improve.
“But you can’t expect change and then do the same thing every day,” he added. “You’ve got to change your habits. And you’ve got to change the way you go about doing things. It’s as simple as that. This is going to give him a chance to work with (hitting coach) Dave Hansen and take a step back to hopefully take two steps forward.”
A big reason Ryan still played so much last year was the team felt backup Munenori Kawasaki could not be trusted to play the shortstop position very often.
That’s different with Andino, a natural shortstop who was a full-time second baseman with the Orioles just two years ago. Ryan is the better defender of the two — having won the Fielding Bible Award last year while being a finalist for the Gold Glove Award — and Wedge wasn’t sure how much glove he’d be sacrificing to get more offense.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Wedge said. “That’s up to Mr. Andino. He’s capable of being a very good shortstop, so I count on him to go out there and prepare to be so.”
This move could be short-lived if Andino falters and Ryan picks things up. If both players struggle, the Mariners could make a move in May and call up Class AAA infielder Carlos Triunfel or Nick Franklin, or AA shortstop Brad Miller.
• Michael Saunders will be re-examined by team medical staff in Seattle on Thursday and, if deemed healthy, will begin a AAA injury rehabilitation assignment on Friday. The hope is Saunders would play a couple of games for Tacoma, then rejoin the Mariners on Sunday or Monday. Saunders sprained the AC joint in his shoulder two weeks ago and is eligible to come off the DL Friday.
• Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games with a single in the fifth.