Ryan's stiff neck leads to Kawasaki's debut

Ryan's stiff neck leads to Kawasaki's debut

OAKLAND -- Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan was scratched from Saturday's lineup about 90 minutes before game time against the A's due to a stiff neck, with Munenori Kawasaki taking his place for his Major League debut.

Ryan, 30, missed the last few weeks of last season and was slowed at the start of Spring Training with a pinched nerve issue, but manager Eric Wedge said he didn't believe this problem is related.

"He just slept wrong," Wedge said. "It's nothing related to what he's been through in the past. With an off-day tomorrow, I don't want to push it. I don't want one day to turn into a week or 3-4 days, so it's my call on that one."

Ryan went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and two runs scored in Friday's 7-3 victory and was hitting .300 after three games. He was wearing an ice pack on his neck in the clubhouse prior to warmups, and Wedge informed Kawasaki he'd be in the lineup just before the team took the field for batting practice.

Kawasaki, 30, was an eight-time All-Star shortstop in Japan who made the Mariners as a non-roster invitee with an outstanding spring. Though he was regarded primarily as a defensive stalwart when he signed with Seattle, Kawasaki had the top batting average of any player in either Arizona or Florida, batting .455 (20-for-44) with 13 RBIs in 15 Cactus League games.

He hit .619 (12-for-19) over the final five spring games.

"We want to make sure Ryan's OK, that's first and foremost," Wedge said. "But it's a good opportunity for Mune to get in there."

The Mariners face fellow Japanese standout Yu Darvish on Monday in Texas, where the 25-year-old right-hander makes his Major League debut for the Rangers. Kawasaki will be the only Mariners hitter who has faced Darvish outside of two unofficial at-bats by Ichiro Suzuki in World Baseball Classic warmups in 2006 and '09.

But Wedge said that doesn't mean Kawasaki will be in the lineup Monday.

"We'll play it by ear right now," Wedge said. "Brendan Ryan is our starting shortstop, but Mune can play other positions as well. We'll just see how it plays out here the next couple days."