SEATTLE -- When the Mariners begin the second half of the regular season on Friday night against the Indians at Safeco Field, there could be as much focus on the future as there is on the present.


Almost two weeks remain until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and the Mariners could be active.

"There may be teams in the race that might be interested in one or more of our players," club president Chuck Armstrong said.

Left-handed starter Erik Bedard tops the list of Mariners that might be pursued by playoff-contending teams heading into the dog days of summer. The short list of untouchables includes All-Star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, starting pitcher Felix Hernandez and reliever Brandon Morrow.

The futures of interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas and manager Jim Riggleman must still be decided at some point, though there is no specific deadline, and Armstrong said the process could last until the offseason.

"I want to be realistic about this and put it out that it could well be the end of October before we can talk to the people we really want to talk to and go through the vetting process," Armstrong said. "We want to leave no stone unturned. We want to have a comprehensive search."

Meanwhile, the regular season continues with auditions inside and outside the front office.

Forget about playing beyond the regular-season finale on Sept. 28. At stake, though, is personal pride and jobs for next season. Riggleman believes a team that has shown progress during the past month can salvage something from the season.

"Obviously, there is a lot of room for improvement," said Riggleman, who replaced John McLaren on June 18. "You can't judge everything by statistics, but you can't ignore them, either. Our team batting average and earned run average are indications that we can do better than this."

The Mariners begin the second half of the season ranked in the bottom half of the American League in both batting average and team ERA. The defense, which wobbled at times during the first two months of the season, has stabilized considerably.

"We have made some big strides on defense, and little strides on offense and pitching," Riggleman said. "But we still need improvement in all areas."

While scoreboard watching probably is out of the question, there are some areas of interest going forward.

Right-handed reliever Brandon Morrow has been sensational in the closer role the past few weeks, which gives Riggleman another door-closing weapon when right-hander J.J. Putz returns from the 15-day disabled list following the All-Star break.

MARINERS TOP PERFORMANCES
5/26, BOS 5, SEA 3 -- Ichiro flashes leather
Ichiro Suzuki makes a basket catch while crashing into the wall before scrambling to throw the ball back in.
Highlights: Watch
5/27, SEA 4, BOS 3 -- Lopez's clutch drive
Jose Lopez came through with a hit down the third-base line to give Seattle the walk-off win.
Highlights: Watch
6/17, SEA 5, FLA 4 -- Hernandez's strikeout show
Felix Hernandez fans six straight, including all three in the fourth inning on a record-tying nine pitches.
Highlights: Watch
6/23, SEA 5, NYM 2 -- Grand blast
Felix Hernandez launches an opposite-field grand slam off Mets ace Johan Santana, the first homer by a Mariners pitcher.
Highlights: Watch
7/1, SEA 7, TOR 6 -- Bloomquist's game-winner
With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth and two runners on, Willie Bloomquist strokes a walk-off gapper.
Highlights: Watch

"There probably would be an appearance or two where we work J.J. back in, maybe not in a crucial situation," Riggleman said. "We might pitch him in the sixth or seventh innings a couple of times to get the cobwebs and butterflies out, and then see how it plays out.

"I really don't care who gets the save, as long as it's a Mariner. But my hope is that in near future we will get J.J. pitching in the ninth inning, and have power arms lined up for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings."

With a healthy Putz, Morrow and right-handers Mark Lowe and Sean Green available, the Mariners could have one of the most impressive bullpens in the Major Leagues.

"It will be interesting to see how that unfolds," Riggleman added. "We're not far away from what Norm [bullpen coach Norm Charlton] had in Cincinnati with [Rob] Dibble and [Randy] Myers.

"There is a good corps of players here, and we can put some pressure on these other clubs. The heck with [other teams] looking at Seattle as someone on their schedule they can feast on."

Unlike the beginning of the season, when the Mariners were considered a strong threat to unseat the Angels at the top of the AL West, the talk now is of making something out of a season gone awry.

"As long as we stay healthy and not get ahead of ourselves, which we might have done, and just do what we're capable of doing, we can be a pretty good team," Willie Bloomquist said. "If we get carried away and try to do much ... it won't work.

"Who knows what's going to happen at the Trade Deadline, but we just need to stay focused and do what we need to do to salvage something from the season."