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Notes: Bullpen is overtaxed

Notes: Bullpen is overtaxed

TORONTO -- When searching for reasons for the Mariners' recent woes, one doesn't have to look any further than the club's starting staff.

During Seattle's current seven-game losing streak, Mariners starters have combined to go 0-4 with a 6.63 ERA over 38 innings. The only pitcher to last at least seven innings in any of those games was Felix Hernandez, and even during that Wednesday start, the young fireballer surrendered six earned runs en route to his seventh loss of the season.

Mariners manager John McLaren thinks one of the biggest problems for his staff has been their pitch counts rising too high early in the game.

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"We just have to do a better job of putting hitters away," McLaren said. "I'm watching the game and I see the pitch count right in front of me and it's like a gasoline meter -- you want to slow it down.

Soaring pitch counts have forced the Mariners to start relying heavily on an already overtaxed relief corps. With the exception of Ryan Feierabend and Sean White, who were both promoted from Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday, all of Seattle's relievers have made at least one appearance over the club's last two games. The only pitcher in the bullpen who hasn't been overworked is closer J.J. Putz. The 30-year-old has made only one appearance in the last week because there haven't been any save opportunities.

Seattle's current schedule hasn't done any favors to its bullpen either. The Mariners were supposed to have an off-day last Thursday but were instead forced to play a makeup game against the Indians. Seattle won't get a break until Thursday, at which point the Mariners will have gone 20 straight days with a game.

"We could have used an off-day on Thursday -- that would have been tremendous," McLaren said. "When you take an off-day away, it gives you a day that your whole team can rest and your bullpen doesn't work. ... We just haven't had that luxury."

September callups: As expected, the Mariners added five players to their roster on Saturday now that teams are allowed to increase their active roster to 40.

Outfielders Mike Morse and Charlton Jimerson were promoted from Triple-A Tacoma, along with catcher Rob Johnson. Left-hander Ryan Feierabend was also recalled, while 26-year-old Sean White was activated from the 60-day disabled list. White has been on the DL since June 2 with right biceps tendinitis.

Right-hander Mark Lowe was another pitcher who received a lot of consideration for a promotion to the big league club. Lowe, who is coming off arthroscopic elbow surgery has pitched 2 2/3 innings for the Mariners this season. During his rehab, Lowe felt some soreness that has temporarily delayed his return to the Majors.

"We're [being] careful with him," McLaren said. "We're monitoring the situation. It wasn't the same injury, but he was having some discomfort so we backed him up a little bit."

On Friday night, Lowe pitched for the first time in more than two weeks. He allowed one hit and one walk but did not surrender a run for Triple-A Tacoma. He still remains a possibility to be activated some time this month.

Injury update: Injured first baseman Richie Sexson remains unavailable for the Mariners' three-game series in Toronto. Sexson is suffering from a tight left hamstring, and on Saturday was left out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game.

While Sexson wasn't expected to see any game action while the Mariners are playing north of the border, it now appears that his status for Seattle's upcoming series against New York is also in doubt.

"That might be pushing it," McLaren said when asked if Sexson would be available against the Yankees. "It's more than day-by-day. It would be very iffy at best."

Broussard bound for the hall: Seattle's Ben Broussard was inducted into the McNeese State Hall of Fame on Saturday. Broussard set McNeese and Southland Conference records, for a single season and for his career. He was named McNeese State's most valuable player twice, and continues to hold 11 school records.

Lopez back in: Jose Lopez was back at second base after being left out of the starting lineup for the last two games. McLaren said his second baseman was given some time off to refocus. Lopez is hitting just .224 since the All-Star break.

Performance review: Despite losing seven games in a row, the Mariners went with 15-13 during August. That marks the first time since 2001 that Seattle enjoyed a winning record during that month. The Mariners also set an all-time monthly hits record with 326 and batted .318 overall, which is the highest monthly batting average in club history.

Four away and counting: After going 3-for-5 during Friday night's game against Toronto, Ichiro is now only four hits shy of 200 on the season. When he reaches 200, it will be the seventh consecutive season he has accomplished such a feat. Only Hall of Famers Wade Boggs (seven, 1983-89) and Willie Keeler (eight, 1984-1901) have recorded seven or more consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits.

Coming up: Jeff Weaver (6-10, 5.62 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for Seattle when the Mariners close out a three-game series against the Blue Jays at 10:07 a.m. PT on Sunday at Rogers Centre. Toronto will counter with right-hander A.J. Burnett (7-7, 3.70 ERA).

Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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