LOS ANGELES — Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi tried not to get too gloomy when the club was in last place, 10 games under .500, and he's trying not to get too giddy now that they're on a hot streak.
After winning Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Mariners have won five straight and 11 of their past 15 to move one game short of .500 and 3 ½ games out of first place in the American League West.
"We're not there," he said. "When we were playing poorly, what did we say? It's early. Now we're playing well, and it's kind of the same answer. We're still learning.
"We have some veterans that are playing better now, but we still have a lot of young kids to bring through this. August and September are tough on young kids."
Bavasi did acknowledge that winning on a semi-regular basis beats the alternative.
"You sleep better, food tastes better, everything's better," he said. "Most of our issues have been scoring runs, and now we're scoring a few runs."
Belly itching to perform
Longtime Dodgers coach Manny Mota remains very close to fellow Dominican Adrian Beltre and empathizes with his struggles in Seattle.
"Sometimes when you go to another league, not everyone adjusts like Vladimir Guerrero," Mota said. "Some guys take longer than others. He [Beltre] signed a big contract, and everyone in Seattle was expecting him to hit 50 home runs. He wanted to show people he's worth that money. He tried to do more than he's capable of. He didn't play relaxed like he did here."
Mota predicted Beltre will become a productive player for the Mariners.
"One thing I like about Belly, he has a lot of confidence," Mota said. "He believes in himself, and he's got a lot of pride. That's why he's trying so hard. I think eventually he will be the player people are expecting in Seattle. I'm not saying he can hit 48 homers again, but he can hit 20, 25."
Catcher Jeff Clement, last year's No. 1 draft pick out of USC by the Mariners, was activated off the disabled list and promoted to Class AAA Tacoma.
Clement had played 15 games for Class AA San Antonio before landing on the DL May 2. He underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and remove bone chips from his left elbow. Clement was hitting .288 with two homers and 10 runs batted in for San Antonio
Clement will share the Rainiers' catching duties with Rob Johnson and Guillermo Quiroz. Clement also will play designated hitter, Bavasi said.
"I'm not going to give anyone any game plans. Just let him play," Bavasi said.
When Ichiro grounded out to start the game Wednesday, it was an uncommon occurrence. He is hitting .449 (31 for 69) in his first at-bat of a game, with two home runs, two triples and three doubles. He also has three walks and has been hit once.
He has reached base via an error seven times, more than any other AL player, and is hitting .463 (37 for 80) in June and .447 (68 for 152) since May 14.
"Him being on base creates a lot of holes," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. "He's a threat, and teams have to react accordingly, which gives opportunity to other people."
The Mariners had two players from their minor-league organization chosen for the World squad in the Futures Game, which will be played on Sunday, July 9, at Pittsburgh's PNC Park as part of the All-Star Game festivities.
Making the 25-man World squad, which will be managed by Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, were San Antonio outfielder Wladimir Balentien (Curacao) and Inland Empire infielder Yung Chen (Taiwan). They will face a U.S. squad managed by Hall of Famer Gary Carter.
On Tuesday, Balentien won the Home Run Derby at the Texas League All-Star Game, beating Tulsa's Joe Koshansky.