M’s bats back strong Iwakuma in win over Royals

Seattle Mariners' Mike Zunino, right, is congratulated by Brad Miller on Zunino's home run against the Kansas City Royals in the fifth inning. (Associated Press)
Seattle Mariners' Mike Zunino, right, is congratulated by Brad Miller on Zunino's home run against the Kansas City Royals in the fifth inning. (Associated Press)

Mariners manager Eric Wedge has spent the past three seasons running interference for his continually-rebuilding, often-losing ballclub.

He’s taken the shots, deflected the heat and stood fast in his pledge that the team’s youth, slimmed-down payrolls and last-place finishes would eventually lead somewhere better. But on Wednesday, realizing he’s been left to fend for himself in the court of public opinion, Wedge expressed frustration.

Wedge is disappointed at how the Mariners have remained silent about his contract status, effectively rendering him a lame duck in his own clubhouse.

“It’s tough,’’ Wedge said. “I feel like I’m hanging out there.’’

Wedge made the comments when reporters asked him about his status before the Mariners defeated the Kansas City Royals, 6-0, at Safeco Field on Wednesday night. A crowd of 15,347 saw Hisashi Iwakuma close out a stellar sophomore campaign by allowing just four hits over eight scoreless innings, while Mike Zunino had a pair of homers and Michael Saunders added a solo blast.

Iwakuma finishes with a record of 14-6, a 2.66 earned-run average, 2192/3 innings pitched and a scoreless-innings streak of 23.

But Wedge is finishing on a much more somber note. He said the team’s refusal to address his status is making things awkward with young players he and his staff are trying to have discussions with about their future in the organization.

“It is difficult,’’ Wedge said. “We shouldn’t be in this situation. But you man up. You handle it. That’s what you do. When you’re leading men, the men want to know who and what they’re being led by and if they’re going to be around tomorrow. So, it does change the dynamic. But I knew that a long time ago. This has not just started. It’s been this way for quite a while and it gets to be in the way.’’

M’s general manager Jack Zduriencik is coming back in 2014 and said Tuesday he’ll speak with Wedge and his staff right at season’s end. He’ll then make his decision on what will happen with the manager’s job.

Sources within the organization have said there’s been internal concern expressed about the stroke Wedge suffered in late July, causing him to miss a month in the dugout. Wedge said Wednesday that he feels great and his health should not be an issue at this stage.

“That would be unfair,’’ he said. “Because it’s been very clear to me from all the doctors that I’m going to be 100 percent.”

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