PEORIA, Ariz. -- Franklin Gutierrez underwent more tests on his ailing stomach Friday as the Mariners attempt to solve the question of what is bothering their Gold Glove center fielder.
Gutierrez sat out his sixth straight day Friday and could be losing any chance of being ready for the opening of the season even if tests come back in a positive fashion. Gutierrez, 28, has played just nine games this spring, hitting .240 in 25 at-bats.
Manager Eric Wedge said the club hoped to know more by Saturday after results of his latest tests get back, but doctors have been trying to figure out why he's been having digestive issues since midway through last season. Gutierrez flew to Seattle for an extensive battery of tests early in Spring Training, with a diagnosis of a slow digestive tract requiring medication and some dietary changes.
But with problems cropping up again, both Gutierrez and the team are trying to get answers. Even if the answers are positive this weekend, Wedge isn't sure whether he'll immediately push Gutierrez back in the lineup in an attempt to get him ready by Opening Day next Friday.
"I've been wrestling with that," Wedge said. "I would say, at best, an outside shot at it. And if we do do that, if we can make that work, we're still going to be limited as we get into the season with the playing time. So if we do go for it, we'll have to be a little creative.
"It's obviously the baseball prep of it, but there's also the physical side of it, too. We've got to take both of those things into consideration."
Michael Saunders started in center field in Friday night's game and went 2-for-3 with a run scored. He's 7-for-13 over his past five games, raising his spring average from .207 to .310. Ryan Langerhans played center in an afternoon split-squad game against the Cubs and went 0-for-3. He's hitting .326.
Smoak starting to find his groove at the plate
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Justin Smoak has struggled much of the spring at the plate, but the big first baseman laced a pair of doubles Friday in the Mariners' 6-3 loss to the Cubs in an afternoon split-squad game in Mesa, Ariz., and said he's feeling more comfortable as Opening Day approaches.
Smoak went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, raising his Cactus League average to .214 with five games remaining before the Mariners hit Oakland for the regular-season opener.
Now would be a good time, obviously, for the youngster to heat up, as the club could use his bat. He's likely designated for the No. 5 spot in batting order, but doesn't want to put too much pressure on himself in that regard.
"I'm trying to be a hitter before I'm just a power hitter," said the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder. "When I try to do too much, bad things happen. I just have to try to hit it on the screws."
2010 Spring Training - Seattle Mariners
News & Features
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He did that three times against the Cubs, with a double to left-center and another to straightaway center while hitting left-handed, then a hard line drive out to right field in his last at-bat from the right side.
Smoak has hit much better left-handed this spring, but he says that usually goes back and forth. Either way, he feels he's getting into a better groove now.
"It's feeling good, a lot better," he said. "I'm feeling comfortable in the box."
More than anything, he's ready to get rolling in real games starting in one week.
"I'm eager to get it going," Smoak said. "It's that time of spring where you're ready for the season to start and you're counting down the days. I'm ready for the lights to turn on and finally play for something."
Bedard's strong outing helped by Kennedy
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Erik Bedard pitched another outstanding game Friday, shutting out the Dodgers for 5 1/3 innings as he continued his strong spring. But the left-hander credited Adam Kennedy for helping his cause, as the veteran second baseman made three excellent defensive plays in the 6-0 victory over the Dodgers.
Bedard improved to 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in five Cactus League starts. Kennedy, meanwhile, improved his already-strong chances of earning a utility-infielder role as a non-roster invitee, as he flashed some impressive glove work at second.
Kennedy made an excellent diving stop on a hard shot behind the bag in the first inning, scrambling to get the force and keep Bedard out of trouble. An inning later, he went deep to his left to throw out Rod Barajas, then he rose up to snag a hard line drive by Ivan De Jesus in the third.
"If he didn't make those plays, I'd be in trouble. So give the game to him," Bedard said. "[The first one] was outstanding. If he doesn't get that, it's a run, not an out, and I'm having to throw more pitches. But if you don't have the defense, you're not going to have good games. You need plays like that to go deep in the game and throw less pitches."
Manager Eric Wedge said Kennedy has willingly adapted to playing second, first, third and even some outfield this spring and showed again what he could do Friday night.
"He went about as far as he could to both sides and that was impressive," Wedge said. "You saw the veteran presence out there when you look at the first ball -- when he didn't get up and flip it, he got up and knew where he was and just tagged the bag."
Bedard continued his own impressive spring with an 85-pitch night, scattering three hits and two walks. He'll have one more start this spring and said the goal will be 100 pitches so he is ready for the regular season. He slots in as the No. 4 starter at this point.
"He was really good, right at 85 pitches, free and easy," said Wedge. "He's really done a fantastic job moving his fastball around and utilizing that fastball. And obviously, his secondary stuff has been real good, too. It was a real good out today again."
Mariners return Rule 5 pick Flores to Indians
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Right-handed relief pitcher Jose Flores, the Mariners' Rule 5 Draft pick last December, was returned to the Cleveland Indians on Friday after he passed through waivers.
Flores, a 21-year-old who pitched Class A ball last year for the Indians, didn't fit into the Mariners' immediate plans with their rebuilding bullpen and would have taken up a 25-man roster spot for the entire season if Seattle had wanted to keep him for the future.
Flores pitched 3 2/3 innings in four appearances this spring with a 12.27 ERA as he gave up five runs on four walks and four hits, including a home run. He was the second player selected in the Rule 5 process on Dec. 9.
The Indians paid the required $25,000 -- half of the original $50,000 Draft fee -- back to the Mariners in order to re-acquire Flores, who was assigned to Cleveland's Minor League camp.
The move opens up a spot on the Mariners' 40-man roster, which sits at 38 following the release of reliever Garrett Olson and now Flores.
Those roster openings will be valuable for a club that has a handful of non-roster invitees fighting for jobs. Infielder Adam Kennedy, outfielder Ryan Langerhans and relievers Chris Ray, Jamey Wright, Royce Ring and Denny Bautista are all possibilities to earn promotions to the final 25-man roster, which would require the opening of several 40-man roster spots to accommodate them.