Branyan plays Sunday despite sore back

Branyan plays Sunday despite sore back

CLEVELAND -- A surprise name appeared on the lineup card in the Mariners' clubhouse on Sunday morning.

Russell Branyan, who has been battling a stiff back, was playing first base and was in his customary second spot in the batting order.

His presence was unexpected because manager Don Wakamatsu said Saturday that Branyan would probably get the day off to give his back a rest. Wakamatsu reasoned that sitting out Sunday's game to go along with the Mariners' off-day on Monday would give Branyan a chance to put the back issues behind him.

"We talked about it [Saturday night] and I told him I was going to give him the day off," Wakamatsu said. "I said, 'We'll see how you feel.' He came in today and said he felt better. He really wanted to be in there."

Branyan, who hurt the back hitting a double in Thursday's series opener, has been struggling at the plate. His average, which was over .300 last month, has slipped to .275. Besides his double, Branyan's only other hit in this series was a bunt single on Saturday. Wakamatsu thinks the best way for Branyan to regain his stroke is to play, not sit.

"We want to get his swing back to where it should be," Wakamatsu said. "He had a good swing on the sacrifice fly Saturday and he hit the ball hard Friday."

The fact Branyan could play enabled Wakamatsu to give Ken Griffey Jr. the day off. Chris Shelton was the designated hitter and batted fourth.

Second baseman Jose Lopez, who left Saturday night's game with tightness in his right shoulder, was back in the lineup.

Steve Herrick is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.