SEATTLE -- The Mariners rotation following the All-Star break has been set, with Joe Saunders leading off the season's second half against Houston on Friday. All-Stars Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez will follow Saunders to finish off the series against Houston.
"We've got two great pitchers that are going to the All-Star Game, and it's my turn in the rotation to give those guys a couple extra days off and let them get settled back in," Saunders said.
The left-hander will be tasked with continuing the momentum for a team that has been on fire of late, supplementing good pitching with an offense that was averaging 6.0 runs per game in July entering Sunday's contest.
Saunders has been on a good run of his own, going 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA over his last three starts, while throwing 20 2/3 innings in that span.
"To keep the momentum going would be great," Saunders said. "Obviously we've got some ground to make up here in the second half so hopefully we can get off to a good start come Friday."
Pryor ready to begin rehab assignment in Minors
SEATTLE -- The Mariners may have a little extra bullpen depth awaiting them in the second half of the season. Reliever Stephen Pryor, who pitched a simulated game on Saturday, is ready for a rehab assignment according to manager Eric Wedge.
"We're going to send him out this week, he'll probably pitch in [Class A] Everett on Tuesday or Wednesday," Wedge said. "Then we'll go from there, but probably send him to [Triple-A] Tacoma from there. We need to give him some time, but he looked good. He's looked good the last couple outings."
Pryor has been sidelined since April with a torn muscle in his throwing shoulder. In just 7 1/3 innings this season, the righty has allowed just one walk while striking out seven batters. Pryor is known for his powerful arm, and can almost hit triple digits with his fastball.
Also close to returning is center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who Wedge said will likely be sent to Everett as well, to prepare for a rehab assignment in Tacoma.
Gutierrez has played in only 18 games this season with the Mariners, and only 150 since the start of 2011. A Gold Glove winner, Gutierrez has knocked five home runs and four doubles in those 18 games, while batting .267.
"Gutierrez has been a huge loss for us, we were really counting on him," Wedge said. "It's without a doubt the biggest loss for us this year."
• Kyle Seager is riding a 13-game hitting streak, while teammates Michael Saunders and Kendrys Morales each have six-game hitting streaks entering Sunday.
• The Mariners No. 1 Minor League prospect, right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker, pitched the second inning of the Futures Game on Sunday, allowing one walk while touching 98 mph with his fastball.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.