BOSTON -- Rule 5 Draft reliever Lucas Luetge is handling an increasingly critical role for manager Eric Wedge, who is trusting him in bigger and tougher situations as the season progresses.
Luetge has yet to allow an earned run in 14 appearances, tying a Mariners record for a reliever at the start of his career. On Sunday, he struck out Yankees standout Curtis Granderson with runners on first and second and one out in the eighth inning with a 4-2 lead.
Pretty big situation for a young man from Industry, Texas (population 304), in front of a crowd of 41,631 at Yankee Stadium.
"Sometimes I'll look up at the seats and think, 'My town could fit in that section,' or something like that," Luetge said with a chuckle. "It's pretty amazing. Where I'm from, we've seen nothing like that before. Most people in the world have only seen Yankee Stadium from TV, so it's just awesome to be there and on the field."
But Luetge isn't letting the situations overwhelm him.
"I really don't think about it too much," he said. "I didn't even realize who was on base until after I got out of there [on Sunday]. I try to just think about it like any other situation, because no matter when I go in there, I don't want to give up a hit or a run. It's all the same to me."
"He carries himself with a level of maturity that is impressive for a young player and a kid coming from Double-A," said Wedge.
Luetge studies a lot of pregame film on opposing hitters, since he's never faced most Major League batters before. And while he appreciates the run of success he's having, Luetge's definitely not taking it for granted.
"It's obviously a lot better being where I am now than the complete opposite," he said. "Coming into all this, you really don't know what to expect. You don't know how things are going to go. Luck has been going my way right now. In baseball, there are ups and downs, and right now is one of my ups, so I'm going to try to keep it going, because eventually I know there is going to be a down.
"It's a humbling game, so that's why I'm trying to make sure I don't get comfortable with anything. I do the same routine and work and don't take a day off with anything, because once you start getting comfortable and taking it easy, that's when things start to go the wrong way."
Ryan not letting struggles carry over to field
BOSTON -- As much as Brendan Ryan has struggled at the plate this season, the shortstop hasn't let those troubles follow him onto the field. Ryan has been golden with the glove, the best defender on a team that ranks second in the American League in fielding percentage (.989) and errors (14).
Ryan said he can't afford to let his offensive slump carry over, as he's hit .144 his first 30 games heading into Monday's series opener against the Red Sox.
"I don't have a choice," said the 30-year-old. "There are a lot of things to say off of that. For one, on the field right now, I have the most tenure except for [Ichiro Suzuki]. Not that I'm the captain or role model or anything like that, but you can't show it. You have your moments, but you try to have them by yourself. That's not something you want to show, having five-plus years in. That can kind of trickle down."
Manager Eric Wedge had Ryan back in the lineup for a second straight day Monday after benching him Saturday. Ryan went 0-for-3 on Sunday, but his quick-footed double play on a Derek Jeter ground ball to the left of second base with the bases loaded in the fifth inning helped win that game.
"He's wearing it, but he's wearing it the right way," Wedge said the way Ryan is dealing with his struggles. "That means a great deal, and obviously you see what the kid's doing defensively."
Ryan, looking for positive signs, found a big one in a 10-pitch walk against Clay Rapada in the ninth inning Sunday that included three well-hit foul balls pulled down the left-field line before drawing his free pass. Small victory, sure, but Ryan said something big happened just before that at-bat, when Jeter called him over in the bottom of the eighth when standing on second base during a pitching change.
"It was very cool of him," Ryan said. "It wasn't anything I haven't really heard, but when you hear it from Derek Jeter or an Albert Pujols type, it's nice. He said, 'Look, I know you're hearing stuff from every different angle.' He said he was hitting a-buck-ninety at the end of May a couple years back and was getting advice from cab drivers, doormen, everybody."
Jeter offered his own quick observation of Ryan's approach and told him to keep his head up.
"As much as anything, it's just the encouragement. That's a pretty cool veteran move from an opponent," Ryan said. "And I'm trying to build off that last at-bat."
Seager gets start at second base vs. Boston
BOSTON -- Kyle Seager moved over to second base on Monday, as manager Eric Wedge gave Dustin Ackley a day at designated hitter. Besides watching Seager excel the plate this season, Wedge continues to be pleased with Seager's defensive improvement and flexibility.
"He's played a good third base for us," Wedge said. "He's more familiar with second and had a heck of a game over there the other day. To be able to play him at either place and be able to feel good about him defensively, there is a lot of value with that."
With Ackley entrenched at second, Seager will continue getting most of his time at the hot corner. Where exactly Seager projects in the batting order figures to be the bigger question. Over his past 16 games, Seager has hit .333 with five doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs, and he's been Seattle's top run producer with 20 RBIs for the season while batting fifth or sixth for the most part.
"I think he could potentially be a two-hole guy. He could be a three-hole guy," Wedge said. "But no different than a lot of our guys, they're so young we need to let them keep hitting and gaining experience."
Wedge had Casper Wells batting second for the second straight day Monday, primarily because he wants a right-hander to break up the left-handed Dustin Ackley and Ichiro Suzuki in the first and third spots.
"You look across the league and nobody is going left, left, left to start off a ballgame," Wedge said. "It's not that you're against doing it, but you're putting yourself in a tough position late in a ballgame from a match-up standpoint."
When Kevin Millwood recorded three double-play grounders during his win over the Yankees on Sunday, it was the most twin killings for him since June 27, 2006, a string of 154 starts.
The Mariners went 3-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Sunday after going 0-for-10 in their first two games of the road trip. That statistic has been a killer for Seattle on the road recently, where the Mariners are 6-for-64 (.094) with RISP while going 1-8 in their last nine outings away from Safeco.
The two-game series at Fenway Park will be Seattle's only two games in Boston this season. The Red Sox play seven games in Seattle, coming to Safeco on June 28-July 1 and again on Sept. 3-5.