SAN DIEGO -- While the Mariners offensive struggles at home have been well-documented, the flip side of that has been this season's huge improvement on the road.
The Mariners ranked near the bottom of both home and road numbers last year, but have taken a big jump through their first 41 road outings this year.
Going into Saturday's game at Petco Park, the Mariners ranked fourth among the 30 Major League teams in road slugging percentage at .426, behind only the Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox. They were seventh in OPS (.738) and eighth in batting average (.263).
Seattle's 50 road home runs put them tied with the Yankees for the most in MLB, though the Yankees have played six fewer road games. But even in home runs per road game, the Mariners rank third at 1.22, behind the Yankees (1.43) and Blue Jays (1.36).
A year ago, Seattle totaled just 52 home runs in 78 road games, putting them 28th among the 30 teams. They were 21st in road batting average (.244), 28th in slugging (.363) and 30th in OPS (.658).
The Mariners best road hitters have been Kyle Seager (.322, 8 HR, 33 RBI) and Michael Saunders (.297, 6, 20). At home, Seager is hitting .180 with two home runs and 12 RBIs, while Saunders is at .200 with one home run and three RBIs.
But apparently the ball has been carrying well in Mariners road series for both sides, as Seattle's pitchers have allowed the most home runs in the Majors on the road (64 in 41 games). The next-closest is Minnesota, with 52 in 34 games.
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."
Carp, Pryor not close to returning
SAN DIEGO -- While outfielder Mike Carp is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Monday, and reliever Stephen Pryor is eligible to return on Wednesday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge indicated on Saturday that neither will be ready in those time frames.
Carp, whose right shoulder has caused him problems throughout much of the season's first three months, has been rehabbing and conditioning the past two weeks, and will begin doing some hitting this week.
"Our plan is to reevaluate him on Monday when we get back, and hopefully he can start some baseball activity," Wedge said. "Pryor is a little further away. We'll reevaluate him Monday as well, and then we can use that homestand -- 9-10 days -- and see how far he can come along.
"I'd like to see him possibly being able to go out and do something by the time we go back on the road. But we'll just have to work off of him."
Wedge said both players would presumably need Minor League rehab stints, though he doesn't expect Carp to require a full 20-day stint like he did earlier in coming back from the sprained shoulder that he suffered on Opening Day in Tokyo.
"I don't think he'll need all that, but I think it's important for both those guys to go out a little and knock the rust off," said Wedge. "We'll start [Carp] with hitting first, and then see where we are with throwing after that. But he's feeling stronger, feeling better."
Charlie Furbush has recorded at least one strikeout in each of his last 15 games, including two in a two-inning scoreless outing on Friday. That's the 11th-longest streak by a Seattle reliever in club history, and the longest since a 16-game run by J.J. Putz in 2007.
Wedge said Furbush has flourished in his new bullpen role, and that he's not being considered for a return to a starting role at this time.
The Mariners have promoted left-hander Brian Moran from Double-A Jackson to Triple-A Tacoma, and placed right-hander Jeff Marquez on the seven-day disabled list. Moran, a 7th-round Draft pick in 2009, posted a 1.14 ERA in 24 relief appearances (31 2/3 innings) for Jackson.