Gutierrez nearly ready for full-time duty

Gutierrez nearly ready for full-time duty

SAN DIEGO -- Franklin Gutierrez has been back with the Mariners for less than two weeks, but the former Gold Glove center fielder figures he's close to being ready for everyday action after racking up four hits in Friday's 9-5 loss to the Padres.

After his 4-for-5 day, Gutierrez was back in the lineup Saturday night against San Diego in the No. 2 spot in manager Eric Wedge's order. He was hitting .308 with two home runs in 26 at-bats entering Saturday's action.

The 29-year-old is still getting his legs under him after missing more than three months when he tore a pectoral muscle early in Spring Training, and then running into heel problems during his comeback. But after starting six of the first nine games since his return, Gutierrez said he thinks full-time duty is near.

"Yeah, I think I'm getting to that point. We talk about it," he said. "Obviously, I'm still feeling some soreness and all that kind of stuff. But I'm getting to the point I'm feeling better with my legs, and that's the most important thing for me. As soon as I feel ready with my legs, I'm going to be ready to play every day."

Wedge plans to give Gutierrez the day off on Sunday in the afternoon series finale, but said his health is definitely improving.

"I'm just trying to keep him away from the night-days here early on," Wedge said. "He's still ramping up. But he's feeling good and, by all accounts, he looks good. I just felt like for the first 10 days or so we try to stay ahead of it. And we always want to stay ahead of it with him, with his injury history. So we're just trying to be careful with him, playing wise."

It's been a long haul for Gutierrez, but one that could be a huge boost for the Mariners if he continues his recent success, after going 5-for-6 with five RBIs in his last two games.

"You get in shape in Spring Training. Obviously, I didn't have any Spring Training," he said. "I start playing three or four games in a row, and then a day off to recover my legs. Like I said, I'm getting to a point I'm feeling comfortable now, not getting tired at all. I'm just waiting to do better and help my team."

After more than two years of battling a variety of illnesses and injuries, Gutierrez is taking added enjoyment in his return.

"Right now, I'm not thinking about anything. I'm not thinking about injuries, I'm not thinking about nothing," he said. "I'm just trying to go out there, concentrate, see the ball, put up good at-bats. It feels great to be back with my team again, playing almost every day. It's a big relief for me to be here again."