"You've got a team out there that cares about the right things, they work hard, they care about each other and care about the game. The one thing we have to do is get them in better position to come out here and perform and relaxing and being confident are a big part of that."
If ever a team needed a chance to step back and reboot, it would be a Mariners club that went 36-51 in the first half with a young nucleus of position players that feels considerable pressure to step up.
Seattle finished the first half on a 9-18 struggle and is 13th out of 14 American League clubs in both batting average and runs per game.
After pondering whether to send struggling youngsters like Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero down to Triple-A to rediscover their strokes and confidence, the Mariners decided to first use the All-Star break and warming summer months as a chance for their revival in the Majors.
"Especially the way things have been going the last few weeks, it was good for everybody just to get away for a little, sit back and reflect on the first half and know what we have to do to get going in the right direction here in the second half," said Smoak, who spent a few days with his wife at Suncadia Resort in Eastern Washington.
Third baseman Kyle Seager and his wife headed to Lake Chelan, and he also came back refreshed.
"Anytime you get a little break, it's good for your body," said Seager. "It can be a long season. We haven't been swinging as well as we'd like, so we took that time to clear out a little and now it's time to get back to work."
Wedge hopes the time away has some carryover, which will be needed against a first-place Rangers squad rolling into Safeco Field for a three-game set before the Mariners head to Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
"To be at your very best, you need that relaxed, controlled aggressiveness," Wedge said. "You have to be free and easy and athletic. I just felt these kids were really putting a lot of pressure on themselves, especially as we rolled into the break.
"[They were] playing hard, playing to win, but just really making it harder for themselves," he said. "Sometimes your heartbeat gets in the way, you care too much or it means so much to you that you try too hard. It's a fine line we're trying to get them to."
• After missing the last three games with a minor concussion, rookie Jesus Montero worked out behind the plate in Thursday afternoon's session and should be good to go, Wedge said, though he didn't know yet if Montero would catch or DH on Friday.
• Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who has been sidelined two weeks with a more severe concussion, was going to the doctor Thursday afternoon and hoping to be cleared to begin physical activity, though he's not ready for baseball activity.
• Mike Carp is continuing his Minor League rehab stint, returning to Tacoma on Thursday night after a pair of games with Class A High Desert during the Triple-A All-Star break. Carp has been hitting the ball very well the last few days at designated hitter, but Wedge said he'll need to play some first base before getting recalled as he returns from a shoulder issue.
• The Mariners signed pitcher David Pauley to a Minor League contract Thursday and he'll report to Tacoma. Pauley pitched well for the Mariners in relief in the first half last season, then was traded to the Tigers as part of the Doug Fister deal. He was let go by the Tigers after last season and then released following Minor League stints with the Angels and Blue Jays this year.
• Rookie right-hander Erasmo Ramirez has been throwing on a daily basis for the past five days as he recovers from a sore right elbow that has him on the 15-day disabled list. Ramirez said he has gradually worked up from 2-, 3-, 5- and 7-minute sessions and now is throwing 10 minutes. He hopes to be allowed to toss a bullpen session soon, but Wedge said he won't be ready for his first time through the rotation coming out of the break.
• The Mariners will go with Kevin Millwood on Friday, Felix Hernandez on Saturday and Hisashi Iwakuma on Sunday against the Rangers. Jason Vargas will throw Monday's series opener at Kansas City and a roster move will be needed to fill Ramirez's slot on Tuesday.
Wedge said the decision to hold Vargas back until Monday was just to give him a little extra time coming out of the All-Star break.