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Originally published Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 8:48 PM

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Eric Wedge says Mariners can use a break | Notebook

At 36-51 and with a team batting average of only .230, the team can benefit from some time off going into the All-Star break, says manager Eric Wedge.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Mariners manager Eric Wedge says the All-Star break could not come at a better time for his team.

The Mariners hit the break with a 36-51 record and sit eight games behind third-place Oakland in the American League West basement. Seattle's team batting average of .230 heading into the break is the second-lowest in franchise history, trailing only the .224 mark last year.

"It's a break and I think it's much needed by everybody," Wedge said before Sunday's series finale against the Athletics. "I think it's probably more important than it will be in years after this because of youth and all the struggles and all the energy that's been played out here both mentally and physically."

The Mariners were a .500 team last season until losing their final five games before the break to sit 43-48 — still five games better than this year's squad. But Wedge said there's a huge difference in the personnel used this year.

"I think that the most positive thing about the first half this year versus the first half last year is, this is real," Wedge said. "Last year, in the first half, it wasn't. What I mean by that is, we've got players here that are here because we feel they have a strong chance to be a part of a championship future. We feel strong about their ability and their talent.

"I trust in the intangibles that are an important part of a ballclub," Wedge added. "And the experience they're gaining — whether it be success or failure — it's going to be part of their DNA. So, we're getting something out of every day. As tough as some of these days are, we're getting something out of it."

Notes

Jesus Montero didn't play in the series after suffering a mild concussion last Wednesday. Montero had hoped to be cleared for pinch-hit duty on Sunday.

• Wedge is leaning toward starting Kevin Millwood Friday against Texas after the break. The Mariners won't set the rotation until they see whether Felix Hernandez pitches in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

• Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez will likely have to go on an injury rehabilitation assignment when he's ready to return from his concussion.

Ichiro collected two more singles and has four hits in two games as a No. 2 hitter. Before the flurry, Ichiro had been in a career-worst 0-for-23 slump.

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