SEATTLE -- Three injured Mariners regulars are nearing a return to the lineup.
Right fielder Michael Saunders, first baseman Justin Smoak and designated hitter Corey Hart could all begin rehab assignments with Triple-A Tacoma by the end of the week, manager Lloyd McClendon said before Sunday's finale against the Rangers.
Saunders (shoulder inflammation) and Smoak (quad strain) both went on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, though Smoak's was retroactive to June 10, which means he'll be eligible to return to the Mariners on June 24.
Hart sustained a hamstring strain May 18 in Minnesota and subsequently landed on the 15-day disabled list. He began running and taking batting practice during the Mariners' latest homestand, but will probably require the longest rehab stint of the three.
Hart was hitting just .209 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 37 games after missing all of 2013 because of microfracture surgeries on both knees.
"Obviously, I think Saunders and Smoak will come quicker because they have been playing," McClendon said. "We have to be careful with Corey and make sure we build his at-bats up and he's swinging well and he's running well. They both got to pass the test. Smoak and Corey and Saundo's gotta pass the test swinging the bat before they go out."
Smoak has a .208/.282/.361 slash line with seven homers and 29 RBIs in 63 games. Saunders is faring better, hitting .272 with four homers and 25 RBIs. All could help an offense that entered Sunday ranked 12th in the American League in runs scored.
Seattle asks more from Ramirez as Walker waits
SEATTLE -- Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez went five innings and didn't give up a run in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Rangers, but manager Lloyd McClendon wasn't particularly enthused with the performance.
Ramirez walked four and had to work out of jams in nearly every inning. He threw 89 pitches, 55 for strikes.
"He still has to show us something," McClendon said. "Ninety pitches in five innings is not what I would consider a great outing. Is it better than his last start? Yes. Is it better than the start before that? Yes. He's taking baby steps. He's getting better. But I'd be lying to you if I said I was really happy with the start."
Meanwhile, top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker gave up one run on one hit and three walks in 6 2/3 innings Saturday night, as the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers beat Nashville, 2-1.
Walker had a no-hitter entering the seventh inning and fanned seven. It was his fourth rehab start with the Rainiers. Walker went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA last season with Seattle, but he has dealt with assorted right-shoulder injuries since the beginning of Spring Training.
Is he ready to replace Ramirez?
"I don't have a timetable for when Taijuan Walker is coming here," McClendon said. "Contrary to popular belief, I don't make that decision to when he's coming here. I've said this time and time again, my job is to take the players that the general manager gives me and help them to perform to the best of their ability. I don't pick the roster. Do I have a say? Yes. But do I dictate when Taijuan Walker is coming here? No."
Morrison gets stitches above eye after smashing bat
SEATTLE -- Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison was contrite and beat up following Sunday's 5-1 win over the Rangers.
Afterward in the clubhouse, he was sporting five stitches above a swollen left eye, which was shades of purple, black, orange and yellow.
With the Mariners trailing, 1-0, in the fifth inning, Morrison popped out to shortstop with runners on first and second for the second out. Upset, Morrison went back into the Safeco Field dugout and smashed his bat against the wall. A piece splintered and came back to hit him above the eye.
"Obviously, I acted like a 3-year-old," Morrison said. "I apologized to my teammates. I'm about to go apologize to Mac [manager Lloyd McClendon]. I can't do that. I didn't want to come out of the game. They saw blood gushing from my eyebrow and took me out. I'm embarrassed. No matter how bad I'm playing, I can't do that."
Backup catcher John Buck replaced Morrison to begin the sixth inning. It marked Buck's first Major League appearance at first base. He's been working before games with infield coach Chris Woodward in case of emergency.
"I don't know if I'm going to take over [Justin] Smoak's spot," Buck joked afterward. "He should be nervous."
Meanwhile, Morrison finished 0-for-3, which dropped his batting average to .135.
"I usually don't snap," he said. "I usually don't play this bad either. But I usually don't snap."
• In his last 11 games, utility man Willie Bloomquist is 14-for-38 (.368 batting average). He played second base Sunday while Robinson Cano got the day at DH.
• The Mariners entered Sunday on a five-game losing streak.
"People don't know how hard it is to win on a nightly basis," McClendon said. "It's hard to win games. You can do everything right and still lose and sometimes you can do everything wrong and still win. The last five games we've been in them, but one thing can cause you to lose a ballgame. We just have to pick up the pieces and get ready for the next game."
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.