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<  Shannon Drayer

Mariners notebook: Eric Wedge getting closer to return

By Shannon Drayer

OAKLAND – A rare event in the Bay Area as both the Giants and A's are in town for the next three days. For once the Mariners didn't have the worst travel schedule.

They arrived in Oakland Sunday night at 8:30. A good number of the TVs on the flight from Dallas were tuned into the Red Sox-Yankees game from Fenway. That game was still going on when we landed. Nothing odd about that other than the fact that the Red Sox are playing the Giants Monday. Rather than leave Boston at 2 a.m. and get in at 4 a.m. the Red Sox flew Monday and went straight to the ballpark.

It is the first time I can remember a big-league team traveling on a game day, let alone making a cross-country trip. Horrible scheduling, and from what I hear next year's schedule is even worse.

Moving on. Great news from acting manager Robby Thompson as he told the media that skipper Eric Wedge would be back with the team Friday.

"I'm not sure in what capacity or just easing into it," he said, noting that they would meet to put together a gameplan for his return.

The good news does not end there. Catcher Mike Zunino, recovering from surgery to remove the hamate bone in his left hand, has graduated from hitting off a tee to taking soft toss. The hope is he will be able to take batting practice within a week and then be sent out on a short rehab assignment.

One last note: We caught up with reliever Oliver Perez in the clubhouse before the game. He has been on a horrendous slide since late July, posting an 18.00 ERA with opponents hitting .471 off of him. He insists fatigue is not an issue but did say that he is being careful with his warmups when he gets the call in the pen, knowing full well that even though he is up that doesn't mean he is coming into the game.

One thing I appreciated seeing Saturday in Texas was that when he took over in the seventh and was getting shelled in the eighth, he looked to the dugout and tapped his chest. He wanted to stay in.

"I know all the guys are very tired in the bullpen and I am very warm so I just want to finish and throw all of the pitches I can so those guys can be available the next day," he said.

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