TOKYO -- Eight-time Japanese All-Star shortstop Munenori Kawasaki has been a center of much attention this week as one of the Mariners' new players. So naturally, manager Eric Wedge was asked by the Japanese media before Wednesday's game if they'll see the charismatic 30-year-old play in the first two regular-season contests.
Kawasaki has made the Mariners' initial 28-man roster and seems a lock to land a full-time spot when the 25-man group is finalized before the April 6 opener in Oakland. But exactly how he'll be used remains to be seen as he figures to fill a utility infield role.
Wedge said "there's always that possibility" that Kawasaki could play in Tokyo, but acknowledged that the starters figure to get the primary playing time this early in the year.
"The difficult thing early on in the season, when you've got your regulars in there, at least initially, you need to get into the routine and the rotation the way you're getting everybody in there," Wedge said. "So that will be the struggle over the course of this couple of days.
"But he'll be available for us late if we need him to pinch-run or potentially go out and play for us defensively, or whatever it may be. I still haven't locked and loaded on what the starting lineup's going to be for [Thursday]. He's done a great job for us, and he's going to get his share of playing time as we get into the regular season."
Wilhelmsen soaking up memories in Japan
TOKYO -- Fun-loving Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is soaking up every experience possible while in Japan, including cheering in the Tokyo Dome bleachers with the Hanshin Tigers fans on Monday night and then picking up the victory in the Mariners' 3-1 win over the A's in Wednesday's regular-season opener.
After the Mariners played the Yomiuri Giants in Monday's early exhibition, Wilhelmsen stayed around and headed to the outfield seats for the Hanshin game. He said he naturally rooted against the A's during their 12-6 loss to the Tigers, getting caught up in the boisterous singing and chanting that Japanese supporters engage in for their home teams.
"I bought a bunch of gear, some bats, scarves and a towel and just dropped my butt down next to all those guys and just started going with it," Wilhelmsen said. "When they scored runs, we popped our thundersticks together. It was just really cool."
He doesn't think the Japanese fans had any idea a Major Leaguer was in their midst.
"Maybe they just thought I was some happy American fan, clapping away with the sticks," Wilhelmsen said. "It was a lot of fun. They have different songs for different situations for different players. I just got right in. I was trying to sing along, but they had different songs. I was just getting the parts down."
The 6-foot-6 Wilhelmsen wanted to buy a Hanshin hat and jersey as well, but they didn't have any in his size.
Two days later, the 28-year-old pitched two hitless innings to pick up his own win against the A's. It was the third victory of his big league career and clearly the most meaningful yet.
"Opening Day win. In Japan. You can't get cooler than that," he said. "Especially with Fi-Fi [Felix Hernandez] pitching.
"I think I need a week to decompress and realize we really did this. We really went to Japan and played ball. But right now it's pretty overwhelming. Well, I don't know about overwhelming, but very special. Maybe just 'whelming.'"
Mariners set 28-man Opening Day roster
TOKYO -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge said injured catcher Adam Moore could be ready to play games as soon as the team returns to Arizona this weekend, while outfielder Franklin Gutierrez also remains on schedule as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle.
Both players were placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday as Seattle set its 28-man roster for Opening Day.
The disabled-list moves are retroactive to March 24, meaning both players will be eligible to return as soon as the second road series of the season at Texas on April 9. Before then, the Mariners have two games against the A's in Tokyo and two more in Oakland on April 6-7.
Realistically, Moore figures to open the season with Triple-A Tacoma as he comes back from a broken bone in the back of his right wrist. The Mariners already have Miguel Olivo, Jesus Montero and John Jaso, but Moore will at least be available soon if something happens to that group, and he could be able to help out in the five Cactus League games when the club gets back to Arizona.
Gutierrez is a bigger question mark. It's been a month since the Gold Glove center fielder felt his pectoral muscle give out while making a throw in practice. The Mariners said then that it would be at least four weeks until he could resume baseball activities, and Wedge said he's "still on line, still on schedule to do everything."
Gutierrez has done some very easy throwing, Wedge said, while mostly doing pool work to stay in condition.
Wedge said the biggest question is how long Gutierrez will need once he is able to throw full out.
"The biggest thing for me is, how much time does he need to play?" Wedge said. "It's not just getting healthy. He didn't have a Spring Training, so we've got to make sure he's prepared to compete."
Both players remained behind in Peoria, Ariz., when the Mariners traveled to Tokyo.
• Former Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki was in the dugout before Wednesday's game and exchanged warm greetings with trainer Rick Griffin as well as new infielder Munenori Kawasaki. Sasaki will throw out the first pitch before Thursday's game.
• Amy Franz, the Seattle woman who updates the "Ichi-meter" hit tally in right field at Safeco Field at all Mariners home games, is in Tokyo for the Opening Series and was introduced to the Tokyo Dome crowd before Wednesday's contest.
• While Ichiro Suzuki went 4-for-5 on Wednesday, the rest of his teammates were a combined 5-for-34 (.147). On the upside, Ichiro is hitting .800 and needs just 196 more hits to reach 200 for the 11th time in his career.
• After setting a team record for strikeouts last year, the Mariners whiffed just four times on Wednesday in 11 innings, compared to 10 by the A's.
• Thursday's game against the A's will be televised live from Tokyo on MLB.TV and ROOT Sports at 2:04 a.m. PT, then replayed at 7:30 p.m. PT. The game will also be carried live on the Mariners Radio Network, then replayed in its entirety immediately after the live broadcast.