HOU@SEA: Shoppach collects three hits and a walk

SEATTLE -- Second-year catcher Jesus Montero was back behind the plate Wednesday after sitting the previous two games, but manager Eric Wedge acknowledged he was looking to play veteran Kelly Shoppach more in the coming days.

Montero started seven of the team's first nine games, but Shoppach has got the call in four of the last six prior to Wednesday. Montero is batting .211 with a .237 slugging percentage in 38 at-bats, while Shoppach is hitting .389 with a .667 slugging percentage in 18 at-bats.

"We're going to mix and match with that for a while and hopefully keep 'Shopp' going, but also help to get Jesus going," Wedge said.

Is that a change of direction from the original plan coming out of Spring Training?

"A little bit," Wedge said. "But really, what I wanted to do was play him a little more early on and see where it goes from there. But also it's the physical and mental demands that I talked about from Day 1. We pushed him a little early, we're backing off a little now, and let's see where it goes."

Last year, Montero started only 55 games at catcher, but was at designated hitter for 77 more games and wound up hitting .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs. The difference this year is he won't get time at DH when he's not catching, which could make it difficult for him to stay in an offensive rhythm if his catching gets reduced.

"That's where we are as a team," Wedge said. "We're a better club now and we have more weapons. Those DH at-bats just aren't there, so we'll have to see."

Wedge confident bats will bust out like in spring

DET@SEA: Morales' RBI double ties game in fourth

SEATTLE -- When the Mariners were thumping the ball this spring, optimism grew that this club would be far better offensively than the group that finished last in the American League in batting the past four years.

But the Mariners were hitting just .219 going into Wednesday's game with the Tigers, ranking ahead of only Tampa Bay in the 15-team American League in batting average and slugging percentage.

Manager Eric Wedge remains convinced that initial 15-game output isn't indicative of how his club will hit over the full season, however.

"Spring Training is Spring Training, I get that," Wedge said. "But as baseball people, you look at swings and contact and what they're hitting and how they're hitting it. And we've got guys here that are going to be able to transfer that over to the regular season. It just hasn't happened yet, for whatever reason. Everybody is different.

"In years past, I'd have to sit here and pick my words carefully, but this year I can honestly look you in the eye and say, 'Hey, listen, I really do believe we're going to be a pretty good offensive ballclub.' And that's just a lot of experience and belief in what I see. We're off to a little bit of a slow start, but I think that will fix itself sooner rather than later."

It certainly was a positive for the Mariners on Wednesday to see Franklin Gutierrez (sore hamstring) and Michael Morse (fractured finger) back in the lineup for a second straight game after they'd missed three games each. And Wedge said Michael Saunders is looking like his sprained shoulder might be ready to go as soon as his 15-day disabled list stint expires on April 26.

"We're looking to establish some consistency if possible," Wedge said. "Of course we still don't have Saunders, but he had a good work day today. He took some dry swings and felt pretty good, so he's working his way back as well."

Beavan adjusting to new routine out of bullpen

Beavan discusses what he is working on in camp

SEATTLE -- When Blake Beavan came in to pitch to three batters in the seventh inning Tuesday, it was the first time the big right-hander had ever come out of the bullpen in his baseball career -- not just in the Majors, but at any point in his life.

So, yeah, it's an adjustment for the 24-year-old Texan as he's been moved to a relief role with the arrival of veteran Aaron Harang to the rotation.

Beavan gave up singles to Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera, sandwiched around a strikeout of Torii Hunter, before he was replaced by left-hander Bobby LaFromboise.

"Weird," Beavan said of the experience. "The hardest thing for me was knowing how much to throw, when to stop throwing. You don't quite know when you'll get in the game, so you could get hot and then sit down and get back up in two more innings. So that's just something different.

"That's something I guess I'll get used to for now. It's just something for me to get a feel for how many pitches it takes to get warm and save them for out there."

But after struggling in his first two starts, Beavan just wants to find his groove and help the team in his new role.

"I hope I pitch tonight. I'd love to get back in there," Beavan said prior to Wednesday's rematch with the Tigers. "There's definitely a little more intensity coming out of the bullpen. I can only imagine a lot more intensity when you've got other people's runs on the basepaths. You don't want them scoring.

"It was definitely different, but it can only get better and more comfortable from here. I'll just be ready for when they need me. The good thing is I can help down there with innings and if they do need somebody to eat up more than normal, I can help."

Worth noting

• The Mariners ranked second in the American League with eight quality starts going into Wednesday's games, trailing only Oakland with 10. Hisashi Iwakuma, who starts Thursday against Justin Verlander, is tied for the AL lead with three.

• Kyle Seager is tied with the Nationals' Ian Desmond with seven doubles entering Wednesday. The Mariners had 23 doubles in their first 15 games, including one in their past 11 games.

• Jeremy Bonderman pitched five innings of one-run ball for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday, allowing five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Bonderman didn't get the decision in the Rainiers' 3-2 loss. The former Tigers starter is 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA in three outings in his first action since 2010.