CHC@SEA: Iwakuma strikes out five over eight solid

ARLINGTON -- Rosters for the 2013 All-Star Game will be announced Saturday by Major League Baseball, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge feels at least three pitchers from his squad are worthy of strong consideration.

Felix Hernandez figures to be selected to his fourth All-Star Game as he carried an 8-4 record and 2.70 ERA into Wednesday night's start against the Rangers, as well as a reputation as being one of the American League's premier starters.

Hisashi Iwakuma has also been frequently mentioned, given his strong first half. Iwakuma is 7-3 with a 2.42 ERA in 17 starts. He leads the AL in ERA as well as WHIP (0.88) and is fifth in opponent's batting average at .203.

"He's a deserving candidate, no doubt about it," Wedge said. "I think the way he and Felix have both pitched, they're deserving candidates and I think you have to throw Oliver Perez in there as well, just from a pitching standpoint. You just never know how that all plays out. But they're all candidates."

Perez has had a breakout year as a setup reliever, going 2-2 with a 1.47 ERA in 33 appearances with 14 walks and 43 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings.

The Mariners haven't had a position player in the All-Star Game since 2010, the last of Ichiro Suzuki's 10 consecutive appearances in the Midsummer Classic. Seattle sent three pitchers in 2011 -- Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Brandon League -- and Hernandez was the team's lone representative last season.

Mariners ink Venezuelan prospect Andrade

Top International Prospects: Greifer Andrade, OF

ARLINGTON -- Greifer Andrade, a 16-year-old outfielder from Venezuela, has signed with the Mariners for $1.05 million, a baseball source confirmed to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on Wednesday.

Andrade is ranked No. 20 on MLB.com's Top International Prospects list. The signing was not confirmed by the Mariners.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Andrade was one of the top players on the Venezuelan team that won the 15-and-under world championship in Mexico last August.

The international signing period opened Tuesday and many of the top youngsters have agreed to contracts, with Seattle also reportedly in agreement on a $350,000 contract with 16-year-old outfielder Ronald Rosario from the Dominican Republic.

Rosario is a 6-foot-2, 165-pound left-hander from San Cristobal who is projected as either an outfielder or pitcher.

Prospect Hultzen scratched after 'minor setback'

Top Prospects: Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners

ARLINGTON -- Left-hander Danny Hultzen, the Mariners' first-round Draft pick in 2011, was scratched from his scheduled start shortly before Tuesday's game for Triple-A Tacoma, but general manager Jack Zduriencik said Wednesday the issue isn't believed to be serious.

Hultzen had made one strong start after spending two months on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder, but felt some irritation in the area again prior to Tuesday's game when he couldn't get loose.

Hultzen met with Mariners doctors on Wednesday and Zduriencik said the news was positive.

"We're considering it a minor setback," Zduriencik said. "I think it's just an aggravation of what he's had. What we're going to do is look at some adjustments to his rehab program. We'll quiet it down for probably 10-14 days where we'll back him off and get him back on the rehab program. Everything is structurally fine. He just has this irritation that has flared up.

"We are just going to look at some alternatives on how to address this, but it's not as issue that needs surgery. It's nothing that is overly alarming. It's just a minor setback from where he was at."

Hultzen is 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five starts this season. Zduriencik said he expects he'll definitely return to pitch this season.

"Oh yeah," Zduriencik said. "But because of who Danny is, and what we have invested in him, the quality of guy we think he's going to be, I think this is the best thing to do. We'd rather be a day late than a day early on this one."

Montero to return to action Friday in rookie league

OAK@SEA: Montero's single gives Mariners a 4-0 lead

ARLINGTON -- Jesus Montero, sidelined the past five weeks following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, will return to action Friday as a designated hitter in an Arizona Rookie League game, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said Wednesday.

Montero had been sent down to Triple-A Tacoma in May, then underwent surgery after playing seven games for the Rainiers.

"Everything is good," Zduriencik said. "He's been in Arizona working out really well. Obviously, we are going to DH him, but he's making good progress."

The Mariners already were transitioning Montero to first base from catcher after he struggled as the club's starting backstop in the first six weeks. Zduriencik said the injury would lead to Montero strictly playing first base and DH the remainder of this season.

"I don't think we'll put him behind the plate," he said. "The whole plan all along was just to give him a few days behind the plate, so I think what we'll do now, especially this year, we'll just keep him at first base, let him DH and get him playing again and get him swinging a bat."

Zduriencik said there was no timetable on his return to Tacoma.

"Let's see how this thing all works together in Arizona," he said. "The fact that he's going to be playing this week is good news."

Ibanez reaches home run milestone

SEA@TEX: Ibanez's roundtripper puts Mariners up early

ARLINGTON -- When Mariners left fielder Raul Ibanez cranked his 20th home run of the season in the first inning of Tuesday's 9-2 victory over the Rangers, he became the oldest player in Major League history to hit 20 homers before the All-Star break.

That feat, noted by Elias, is just the latest milestone for Ibanez as he continues on one of the most impressive power-hitting runs ever by a 41-year-old.

Barry Bonds set the previous record for oldest player with 20-plus homers prior to the break when he hit 23 at age 39 in 2004.

Harold Baines (1999), Edgar Martinez (2003) and Darrell Evans (1987) all had 19 home runs prior to the All-Star break at age 40.

"It's impressive," said Joe Saunders, the latest Mariners starter to benefit from Ibanez's hot streak. "We are impressed about how he goes about his business and what a great teammate he is. He's always got our back and we definitely have his back. He's a phenomenal player and he's having a phenomenal year. Hopefully he keeps it going."

Ibanez already has the sixth-most home runs in a season for a Major League player age 41 or older. He needs one more to tie Dave Winfield for fifth on that list and nine more to tie Ted Williams, who set the record with 29 in 1960.

"Amazing," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "But if you just follow him around, watch what he does all day, he's always doing something, always working. He works so hard in the winter time to put himself in the best position mentally as well as physically. He knows himself, fundamentally. You watch him in batting practice, it's so calculating. It all leads to success in games."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Michael Morse, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained quadriceps, worked out again pregame on Wednesday and is getting closer to returning, according to Wedge. He's eligible to come off the DL on Friday, but Wedge said he'd likely need at least several days of a Minor League rehab in Tacoma.

• Hector Noesi got the spot start for Tacoma on Tuesday after Danny Hultzen was scratched with tightness in his shoulder. Noesi threw three innings with two hits and one run and now has a 7.43 ERA in 26 2/3 innings at Triple-A.

• Veteran reliever Josh Kinney accepted his Minor League assignment to Tacoma and threw an inning on Tuesday, allowing two hits and a run as he continues returning from a rib injury that has sidelined him since the spring.

• Ty Kelly, the infielder acquired from the Orioles last weekend for Eric Thames, made his Tacoma debut and went 1-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored while playing second base Tuesday.

• Catcher Kelly Shoppach, released last week by the Mariners, signed a Minor League deal on Wednesday with the Nationals.