SEATTLE -- Right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor continues throwing and working his way back from a tear in the latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder, but progress has been slow, according to Mariners manager Eric Wedge.
The Mariners had Pryor re-examined earlier this week to make sure there'd been no further setbacks from the April 15 injury and the results were positive, but Wedge said the time frame continues to be slower than originally hoped.
"It's all steady as she goes, it's just not coming quick," Wedge said. "He's just such a big guy with that particular injury, it's just been slow going. But no red flags."
Pryor didn't allow a run in 7 1/3 innings over seven appearances before the injury, allowing just three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts, so his absence has definitely been felt.
"It's been big," Wedge said. "We've had to push some of these other kids into late-inning roles probably prematurely. I think they've handled it pretty good, all things considered, but Pryor was dominant this year early."
Bantz promoted to provide backup at catcher
SEATTLE -- Brandon Bantz, a 26-year-old catcher with 37 games of Triple-A experience over the past two years, was selected by the Mariners from Tacoma on Wednesday to provide depth behind the plate after Jesus Sucre injured his hand in Tuesday's 7-4 victory over the White Sox.
Infielder Carlos Triunfel was optioned to Tacoma to make room on the 25-man Major League roster, while veteran outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL to create a spot for Bantz on the 40-man roster.
Bantz will serve as a backup to veteran Kelly Shoppach until Sucre is ready to return, manager Eric Wedge said.
Bantz was called up before top catching prospect Mike Zunino because the club doesn't want to rush last year's first-round Draft pick out of Florida for a short-term solution.
"It's a temporary move," Wedge said of Bantz's situation. "And good for him. He's a big leaguer. I saw him a few times in Spring Training. We called him up a few times [to Major League camp]. We don't want to disrupt anybody else down there right now."
Bantz hit .229 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 34 games for Tacoma last year. He opened this season with Double-A Jackson and hit .178 with a home run and four RBIs in 14 games before getting moved to Tacoma last week. He played three games with the Rainiers, hitting .300 with a home run and one RBI in 10 at-bats.
"It's been a pretty whirlwind of a last 12 hours or so," Bantz said before Wednesday's game. "I got the call about 11:30 last night that there was a possibility I could be coming up here. It was an unreal, surreal experience. It still feels pretty surreal at the moment. I'm just really excited. This has been a life-long dream. I'm just happy to be here and hoping to contribute any way I can."
Gutierrez, 30, has been battling a hamstring issue the past five weeks. His 60-day DL stint is retroactive to April 23, so he'll be eligible to return on June 22.
Bantz, a 30th-round Draft pick in 2009 out of Dallas Baptist University, will be in uniform and available for Wednesday's series finale with the White Sox. He's regarded as a strong defender and has thrown out 14 of 23 attempted basestealers this season.
"Luckily, I was in Tacoma all last year, so I know a lot of these guys already," he said. "There are a couple starters that I'm not that familiar with, but I'll work hard to get to know them and what they like to do, so we can get on the same page. But it's good. You're in the locker room and you get used to that environment in the Minor Leagues, where people are always in and out, so you're always having to introduce yourself and get to know new people. It's kind of the same in that aspect, but it's different obviously being at this level."
Triunfel had played in five games since being called up on May 24 and was 0-for-13 with just three starts in that span.
"Obviously, I didn't play him a great deal," Wedge said. "A lot of that has to do with Nick Franklin. He's off to a good start. We need to see him more. I don't think it's a bad thing to have him go down there and play every day for a while. But he'll be back up here."
Wilhelmsen getting back on track
SEATTLE -- Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen has had a nice start to the homestand, picking up saves on Monday and Tuesday after blowing three of four opportunities over the previous two weeks.
Still, the right-hander -- who is fifth in the American League with 14 saves -- wasn't his typically sharp self, walking the first batter he faced in both contests, and allowing a run on Monday.
"It's not back to where it was, but he's moving in the right direction," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Walking that leadoff guy makes it so much more difficult for you, and he understands that."
Wilhelmsen, who had an off-day on Wednesday, said that while allowing the baserunners is frustrating, he's encouraged by the progress he's made this week.
"I felt the same when I was blowing games as when I wasn't blowing them," Wilhelmsen said. "I felt the same when I'm walking everybody; mentality is the same, my body feels good, it's just, I guess I'm not a robot."
Morse likely to return to lineup Thursday
SEATTLE -- Michael Morse was out of the Mariners lineup for a sixth straight day Wednesday with a strained right quadriceps muscle, but the big right fielder is expected to return for Thursday's series opener with the Yankees, manager Eric Wedge said.
Morse shares the Mariners' home-run lead (11) with Raul Ibanez and has hit .254 with 21 RBIs in 45 games. Wedge is eager to get his bat back in the lineup, but he wants to make sure Morse is up to speed and will use him initially at either designated hitter or first base.
"He's champing at the bit," said Wedge, who indicated Morse might be available to pinch-hit during Wednesday's game. "He was hitting me up during the game last night. He wanted to hit."
As for where he'll play Thursday?
"I'm debating that right now, whether DH or first base," Wedge said. "It's most definitely not going to be the outfield. We'll see how today goes and then decide."
• Veteran reliever Josh Kinney, on the 60-day disabled list with a rib injury, has rejoined the Mariners and threw a bullpen session Tuesday. He'll throw another bullpen session on Thursday and then a simulated game Saturday before going out on a Minor League rehab assignment. Kinney was eligible to come off the DL on May 30.
• Kendrys Morales was tied with Oakland's Josh Donaldson for the most game-winning RBIs in the American League with eight going into Wednesday's games. Morales' .400 average (20-for-50) with runners in scoring position ranked fourth in the AL.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.