Gutierrez close to returning to Mariners

Gutierrez close to returning to Mariners

CHICAGO -- Franklin Gutierrez, on the disabled list for eight weeks with a concussion, is close to rejoining the Mariners, manager Eric Wedge said Sunday.

Gutierrez played his seventh rehab game with Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday and went 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored. He's hit .333 with seven RBIs and two home runs with the Rainiers and hasn't had any further headaches or setbacks.

"I think he's close to heading our way," Wedge said. "He felt good again last night. We're going to talk further about it today, but I think he's getting close."

Gutierrez has played just 13 games this season after missing the first several months of the season with a partially torn pectoral muscle. He was playing well when he finally got healthy, batting .267 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 45 at-bats while playing his usual outstanding defense.

But the 2010 Gold Glove winner was hit in the head with a pickoff throw to first base by Boston's Franklin Morales on June 28 and has been sidelined since.

With Michael Saunders battling a sore groin muscle following an outfield collision Friday, Gutierrez could slide right back into the center-field role. Saunders is hoping to return by Monday, but he can also play left or right field.