SEATTLE -- After dealing with three months of frustration while recovering from a shoulder injury incurred in the season opener in Tokyo, Mariners first baseman Mike Carp enjoyed a breakthrough four-game series against the Royals when he hit .433 (8-for-15) with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs.
For Carp, it was a needed boost after his average dipped to .146 after coming off the disabled list following a three-week rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma.
"I'm feeling good," said the 25-year-old, whose average was up to .202 going into Monday's series opener with Toronto. "I'd worked hard with [Tacoma hitting coach Jeff] Pentland to try to get things right and get past some of the bad muscle memory I'd created by being hurt. Things are definitely starting to pay off and hopefully it keeps going."
Carp said the sprained left shoulder led to some bad habits as he tried to compensate during his initial return to Seattle, but he and Pentland studied his swing and made some corrections.
"I'm getting close," he said. "I'm starting to center some balls and have a better idea of what I want to do with it and accomplishing what I want to do, which definitely helps. You can have the best idea in the world and not get anything accomplished when you take it into play during the game.
"Luckily for me, it's been working lately and I just want to continue going down that positive path. I've got a couple months left to do some damage."
Getting the chance to play every day since the Mariners sent first baseman Justin Smoak down to Tacoma has certainly helped.
"I think it's more of a timing issue, as he's worked back," manager Eric Wedge said. "We've talked about that big league learning curve of coming back and getting at-bats here with more consistency and being able to see big league pitching from day to day. I think you're seeing him catch up."
Players look to keep focus as Deadline nears
SEATTLE -- With Major League Baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline now less than 24 hours away, reports continue circulating that the Mariners are talking to clubs about reliever Brandon League as well as others.
Manager Eric Wedge said players have no choice but to keep their focus on baseball until the deadline passes at 1 p.m. PT on Tuesday.
"I think it's always a little bit different the last couple days before the Trade Deadline, but that's in every clubhouse," Wedge said. "The veteran clubhouses usually handle it best because they've been down that road before. Our guys have been all right for the most part."
The Mariners are certainly not a veteran clubhouse. With Ichiro Suzuki already dealt to the Yankees, the Mariners average age is now the third-youngest among American League teams at 28.1. Only Kansas City (26.6) and Oakland (27.8) are younger.
But part of the growth process is learning how to deal with the annual Trade Deadline and its rumors.
"It's just part of being a big leaguer, part of being a pro," Wedge said. "It's part of the territory and it's always going to come around every year. You just have to handle it.
"Wherever you are is where you are. You just have to keep your mind in the moment, focus on the task at hand and do what you have to do. Our guys are here and playing for the Mariners. We're proud to have 'em. Let's go out and win a ballgame."
If the young Mariners need an example, they can look to veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood. The 37-year-old is among those whose name is being tossed out as a potential trade candidate, but he's not spending any time thinking about it.
"That's just another thing I can't control, so I try not to worry about things like that," Millwood said. "Whatever happens, happens."
And as Wedge noted, more often than not, nothing happens.
"It's just all over the place," Wedge said. "It's all speculation. It is what it is. Ninety-five times out of 100, there's not much truth to what's out there, so you just have to wait and see."
Gutierrez undergoes more tests for concussion
SEATTLE -- Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez underwent more medical tests Monday as the Mariners continue to carefully monitor his return from a concussion he received June 29 when he was hit in the head by a pickoff throw.
Gutierrez remains on the 15-day disabled list, but has doing well while running, shagging fly balls and taking some batting practice the past few days, manager Eric Wedge said.
"We're just going to keep eliminating and pushing forward and keeping a close eye on him," Wedge said. "Hopefully everything comes back good today and we can keep him going. But he had a good day yesterday with all the activity, which was a good sign."
Once Gutierrez is cleared to return to game action, he'll need to go out on a Minor League rehab stint to get his timing back. The 29-year-old had played just 13 games after returning from a partially torn pectoral muscle when he got hit in the head by a throw to first by Boston's Franklin Morales.
Mariners' top Draft pick enjoying start to career
SEATTLE -- Mariner fans hope Mike Zunino's success at short-season Class A Everett marks the beginning of great things for the catcher, but the third-overall selection in June's First-Year Player Draft is focused on enjoying his first taste of professional baseball.
"I'm having a blast," Zunino said. "It's just one of those things that the biggest transition is playing every day. I'm having a good time with the great coaches, great players here, so it's made it real easy."
Zunino and his AquaSox teammates took in the Mariners' batting practice from the field prior to Monday's game against the Blue Jays at Safeco Field on their off-day.
It is the rarity of days off that Zunino said was the hardest part of the transition from Florida to professional baseball. But his body has held up so far and there are positives to playing almost every day, he said.
"You have a bad game or good game, the next day is, you got to come out focused again," he said. "It's definitely nice, got to have a short memory span, but I've been having a blast doing it."
Zunino has been playing well, too. In 16 games, the 21-year-old is hitting .356 with six home runs, five doubles and 13 RBIs. He's even provided late-inning heroics, tying Saturday's game with a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
• Mariners left-hander Charlie Furbush continues to do some flat-ground throwing as he recovers from a left triceps strain. Furbush, who is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 4, is working toward a bullpen session later this week and then will need to go out on at least a brief Minor League rehab stint before he's ready to return, according to manager Eric Wedge.
• Kyle Seager held the Major League lead in two-out RBIs after Sunday's games with 36, two ahead of the Dodgers' Andre Ethier. The last Mariners player to lead the AL in two-out RBIs for a full season was Edgar Martinez with 53 in 2000. The last Seattle player to lead the Majors for a full year was Jay Buhner, who set the club record of 60 in 1995.
• Right-hander Hector Noesi continues to struggle at Triple-A Tacoma since his demotion from the Mariners. Noesi gave up 11 hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 5-3 loss to Tucson on Sunday. Noesi is 0-3 with a 10.31 ERA in four starts with the Rainiers.
On the flip side, former Mariners reliever David Pauley has thrown well for Tacoma since signing a Minor League deal. Pauley took the loss in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader, but allowed just six hits and two runs in six innings. He's 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in five appearances (two starts) over 15 1/3 innings.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.