OAKLAND -- To a man, the Mariners seem to have enjoyed their trip to Tokyo for the Opening Series and the unique week in Japan that kicked off their season. But they're all eager to get back into the normal routine of a 162-game season, or the 160 games that remain after going 1-1 against the A's in the Tokyo Dome.
"I think we all knew it would be kind of a test of motivation coming back to Spring Training No. 2, so re-Opening Day is quite welcome," shortstop Brendan Ryan said prior to Friday's resumption of regular-season play with the A's. "Spring Training always wears on you. But to go from at-bats and games that really matter to another week of spring, well, this will be a breath of fresh air."
Second baseman Dustin Ackley said the seven days between Tokyo and the resumption of play was critical for him, as he needed most of it to get over an illness that hit several players following their return.
"For me, it's just good to not be sick anymore," Ackley said. "When we got back, I just felt terrible and lost weight and was sick, so that put a damper on a bunch of things. But that trip back to Arizona definitely helped get my body some rest and able to start the season right.
"Hopefully, everything works out in the end. I'm not quite back to the weight I was before we left, but a couple good meals and I'll be fine. I feel great now. I've adjusted back to all the time and everything, so I'm good."
And now the chance to play every day and get into the usual baseball grind?
"This is the part I've been waiting for," Ackley said. "I think this is what we all look forward to."
Count Felix Hernandez in that group, as well. The Mariners' ace will pitch on Saturday, 10 days after his Opening Day outing in Tokyo against the A's. He threw four innings in a Cactus League game on Monday to stay sharp, but looks forward to getting into his normal pitching rhythm.
"Yup, it's good to be back and in a five-day rotation," Hernandez said. "It's another season, and I'm pretty excited about this."
That seemed a unanimous feeling on Friday in the Mariners' clubhouse.
"Everything we've gone through, we had to go through," said manager Eric Wedge. "There's no getting around it. Our guys have handled it very well. But now that we're here, we can get into our routine. We know we can play from day to day, and I think everybody is excited to do that."
Montero penciled in as DH against A's
OAKLAND -- Rookie catcher Jesus Montero was in the Mariners' lineup as the designated hitter on Friday against the A's in his first game since getting hit in the head with a pitch on Monday by Rockies right-hander Edgmer Escalona.
Montero, 22, said he was out of sorts on Tuesday, but was cleared to play after going through a full workout on Thursday after the Mariners got to Oakland prior to re-starting the regular season on Friday.
"Yeah, everything is good," Montero said. "It took a couple days. The next day, I was feeling dizzy and [had] a lot of headaches. But after that, I was good. It was a big hit."
Manager Eric Wedge waited to see Thursday's workout before penciling Montero back into the lineup. The youngster is expected to be a big part of Seattle's offensive attack this year, after being obtained in the Michael Pineda trade with the Yankees in January.
Montero hit .326 with two home runs and a team-leading 13 RBIs in 13 Cactus League games. He was 1-for-7 in the two opening games against the A's in Tokyo, while batting fifth.
"He had a good work day [on Thursday]," Wedge said. "He caught a long bullpen, took batting practice, ran around a little bit. So he's good to go."
Montero said he'd never been hit in the head before Escalona's pitch glanced off the side of his batting helmet in the Cactus League encounter.
"I was a little surprised. But there's always going to be a first time," Montero said. "I'm really happy to be back now. I cannot wait to be out there to help the team."
Liddi looking to find his niche
OAKLAND -- Alex Liddi accomplished one goal last year when he became the first Italian-born-and-raised player to play in the Majors. Now, the 23-year-old checked another box on his bucket list by making the Mariners' 25-man roster when they broke camp this week.
"It's something special, for sure," said Liddi, one of seven rookies on the Mariners roster as they re-opened the season on Friday. "It was a dream come true last year to make my Major League debut and this year to be part of the team right away. It's something to be proud of and a good way to start the season."
Liddi hit .370 with seven doubles, one home run, 11 RBIs and three stolen bases in 18 Cactus League games, and will be a backup at both first and third base to open the year.
"I think I had a pretty good spring," Liddi said. "I was working on making a good impression and being a more complete player, put the ball in play, be able to steal a base, play different positions on the field. That's what I'm trying to do, and it's gone good so far."
Liddi said last year's September callup, when he hit .225 with three home runs in 15 games, helped him feel a little more comfortable as he started the season with the big club. The adjustment will be getting used to a bench role, something he's never dealt with in six seasons in the Minors.
"Of course, it's something new for me," Liddi said. "But the main thing is to put yourself in position to be ready all the time when they need you. Keep working on your stuff every day, even if you're not playing, and just be ready during games to have your chance to go in and do something."
Left fielder Mike Carp took swings in batting practice on Friday for the first time since spraining his shoulder in the Opening Day victory over the A's in Tokyo on March 28. He "felt very good," according to Wedge. Carp remained behind in Arizona to rehab while he's on the 15-day disabled list, and is shooting to return by the April 13 home opener in Seattle.
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez also continued hitting Friday in Arizona. He'll need longer before he is ready to return because he'll need a Minor League rehab stint, having missed almost the entire Spring Training with his partially torn pectoral muscle.
"Let's let them keeping working throughout the next couple days and we'll reevaluate either Sunday or Monday," Wedge said. "Guti has to keep working his arm back so he'll get to point where he can throw. He'll go out and DH first, just because that's where he needs reps. Carp had a Spring Training, Gutierrez did not. So that'll be the difference, right there."
Kevin Millwood rejoined the team in Oakland on Friday after staying behind in Arizona to pitch four innings of a Minor League intrasquad game on Thursday. The team is trying to keep him sharp for his first start on Wednesday in Texas.
"That was about as exciting as it can get," said the 37-year-old veteran with a roll of his eyes. "You just try to find something to work on and focus on that. Nothing against those guys, but there's no adrenaline and it's almost like a glorified bullpen. But it went well. I got my work done."
The Mariners always fly more than just about any MLB team because of Seattle's location. But this year's start to the season is daunting, even by their standards. Including the trip to Japan, the team will have played 19 games in 22 days over 14 time zones before getting to their home opener on April 13 in Seattle. The Mariners will play 18 of their first 27 regular-season games on the road.