Wilson done; Branyan may play again
First baseman could receive token at-bat in final games
SEATTLE -- Mariners fans who want to get one more look at slugger Russell Branyan might get a chance. The same cannot be said for Jack Wilson.
Branyan, out since late August with lower back pain, has been taking batting practice in hopes that he can make at least a token at-bat or two in appreciation of his fine work this season. But Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said Tuesday that Wilson's bruised right heel will likely end his abbreviated 2009 campaign with the Mariners.
Wilson was scheduled to meet with team doctors about an hour before Tuesday's game against the A's, but Wakamatsu said the shortstop, acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh on July 29, was "still hobbling around pretty good. The chances of him playing the rest of the season are probably not very good."
As recently as Sunday, Branyan doubted he'd play again, saying, "It doesn't make any sense to play if I'm not 100 percent. I would say I'm probably between 80 and 85 percent right now, and if I pushed it to come back and tweaked something again, I would go into the offseason having to go through the whole [rehab] process again."
On Tuesday, Wakamatsu said the pain that had spread to Branyan's hip area had subsided, which is a good sign, and the team held out hope for one last go-round.
"We'll let him hit a little bit," Wakamatsu said. "With the lack of time and him not able to take ground balls yet, [we'll see] maybe the last day or two if he'll get an at-bat or not.
"We would like him to be back for what he's done, to get him at least a day in the lineup. But again, we're not going to force that, and he's done everything he can do to try to get back to where he was, but a lot of the pain is gone from the hip area, where it was bothering him mostly.
"But again, [we're] looking at it where we don't want to jeopardize anything going forward, either. We wanted him to try to finish up with the team that he helped start, and we'll see how that goes. Hopefully, we'll get him an at-bat or so."
And what about next year?
Branyan was a boon for the organization, signing on for one year as a free agent in December for $1.4 million and blasting a team-leading 31 home runs in only 431 at-bats. He also drove in 76 runs and led the team in on-base-plus-slugging percentage with an .867 number. He's eligible to be a free agent again and figures to garner quite a bit of interest, particularly from statistics-oriented organizations.
Wakamatsu wouldn't tip the Mariners' hand, but said Branyan, and Wilson, who has an $8.4 million option or $600,000 buyout decision looming, would be part of upcoming club discussions.
"We're going to have meetings on Monday, the day after the season, and we'll have a chance for all the coaches to talk not only with [general manager] Jack [Zduriencik] but also with the Minor League coaches," Wakamatsu said.
"We'll formulate a plan and try to give our opinion at that point, and we'll try to come up with what's best for the organization. I think you look, career-wise, and there's several guys on this club that have had career years, and to go into this year with a blank slate and not knowing a lot about players, guys from other organizations, players that were in this system that I had no idea or knew their personality, I think there's a lot of positives in the bullpen area, there's a lot of positives in some of the position players, and [center fielder Franklin] Gutierrez has obviously surpassed a lot of our expectations and been that guy to build around in the future.
"There's a much clearer reality than when we set out a year ago."
Wakamatsu said the priority for Branyan is to make sure he's ready to play next season. And he also said he would basically give Wilson, 31, a mulligan for his banged-up stint in Seattle.
"Absolutely," Wakamatsu said. "Him not being able to run like he can, and to be hampered by all those injuries, I think it'd be real unfair to make a judgment on how good of a player this guy is."
Doug Miller is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.