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Wedge returns to Mariners after recovering from stroke

Manager 'in great shape' and will attempt to return at full capacity

SEATTLE-- Saying he is rested and ready, Eric Wedge returned to his managerial role with the Mariners on Friday, one month and a day after having a stroke during batting practice prior to a game at Safeco Field.

Wedge, 45, has been away from the team since being helped off the field on July 22. The Mariners went 12-15 with bench coach Robby Thompson serving as acting manager and took a 59-67 record into Friday night's series opener with the Angels at Safeco Field.

Wedge said he's returning in his full capacity as manager, but he will try to balance things better in his life by not worrying as much about less-critical things. He is also receiving treatment for sleep apnea, a condition that wasn't allowing him to get as much rest as needed during nights.

"The doctors made it very clear," Wedge said. "They marched them in there one by one before I left the hospital to let me know just how serious this was and how serious I needed to take this. It's a shot across the bow, it's a mulligan, it's a heads up. And I'm taking it as such.

"Listen, I live my life with a great deal of passion. And I believe in that. I love my family to no end, they're the No. 1 priority to me, my wife and two kids. And I love this game and respect this game so much. I feel so strong about this organization. I've put my heart and soul into this thing, as have so many others, and at some point in time you have to take a step back and take care of yourself. And that's what I'm going to do a better job of."

Wedge is in his third year with the Mariners and 10th as a Major League manager, having previously led the Indians from 2003-09. He'd never had any serious health issues until he felt something overtaking him as he stood behind the batting cage that afternoon.

"Something overtook my body that I didn't have any control over," Wedge said. "It was the first time I felt I'd lost control. First my head, then my legs and then the eyesight comes into play. I called [trainer] Rick Griffin over first and started talking to him and knew something was wrong. Then it was just about trying to get off the field. I didn't want to make a big to-do about it.

"They got me off the field, at least to the steps. By the time I got to the steps, I was pretty much dead weight. They got me on the gurney and to the hospital. Every step we took further I got a little more upset, because I didn't want that to happen. Then when I got to the hospital, I knew it was a pretty serious thing."

Doctors eventually confirmed that Wedge had a stroke. And while he walked out of the hospital under his own power three days later, the situation was clear. He's spent the past month working with doctors and figuring how to lessen internal stresses.

"I never would have thought that I would be able to slow myself down, but when the doctor looks you in the eye and says, 'Slow yourself down or else,' you know he's not joking about it," Wedge said. "I think when you have intensity and passion and you care so damn much, to a fault maybe, and you're doing that all day long, eventually it's going to catch up to you. I think that's where it ended up with me."

Wedge said he won't need to be reminded by anyone to slow himself down again.

"I think I got one hell of a reminder now," Wedge said. "I've got a great reference point here. I did not like not being in control and I didn't have it there for a couple days, and that's one hell of a scary feeling. So then once they figured it all out, I'll never need another reminder again. Because when I was laying there, that's enough reminder for me."

Wedge met with the team before Friday's batting practice, and the reunion was a happy one.

"It's awesome," said veteran pitcher Joe Saunders. "We've all been looking forward to him coming back. He looks like he's in great shape, a world of difference from when we last saw him. We're excited to have the skipper back and can't wait to go out there and battle our butts off for him.

"He takes this game to heart very much. He cares a lot and players respect that and really appreciate the fact he's there for us and cares so much about us. It's nice as a player to know your manager has your back 100 percent and it makes you want to go out there and give 120 percent for him. It's great to have him back."

Wedge and the players were quick to note that Thompson did a tremendous job filling in and things didn't change dramatically with him at the helm and Jeff Datz helping out, along with pitching coach Carl Willis and the rest of the staff. But everyone was relieved to have the boss back Friday.

"It's been different, but [Wedge] and Robby and Datzy and Carl have been together forever," first baseman Justin Smoak said. "They've done a great job filling in. But of course we missed him and it's always great to have your skipper, your leader, back. We're excited to have him back in the dugout with us."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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