OAKLAND -- John Jaso has provided the Mariners a clutch bat and needed high on-base percentage this season and for good measure he's added in some surprising power at times.
Jaso hit his 10th home run of the season in Thursday's 9-4 victory in Anaheim, with that total coming in his 103rd game with the Mariners. Prior to this season, Jaso had 10 home runs in 203 career games with the Rays.
He also leads the Mariners in batting average at .275 going into Friday's series opener with the A's and is second to Detroit's Prince Fielder in on-base percentage in the American League since the All-Star break with his .415 mark.
"I just kind of found myself a little this year," Jaso said. "I've actually relaxed a little this year, too. It's kind of weird how this game goes like that. But the change of scenery a little bit and relaxing [helped]."
Jaso said he's thrived with a less-is-more approach in terms of his pregame work this season in the indoor hitting cages where most players spend time before batting practice.
"You can find on any team, there's all this stress about how you need to be in the cage at this time or if you're a rookie you need to be hitting at this time or that," he said. "If you're not in there, then shame on you and stuff. I hardly ever go in the cage. I just take BP and that works so well for me. Being able to relax and not worry so much about those things and where you are at certain times, it's just felt a little more free."
Jaso's approach and the way he's been used this season have helped him stay strong at the plate.
"Every season I've had spurts where my bat just felt heavy and I'd go to the plate hoping for off-speed stuff just to help me out," he said with a chuckle. "But I haven't had that this year and I think just staying fresh has helped. It could be different things, too. I think I've caught less this year and playing on the turf in Tampa really drains your body."
Millwood unsure if 2012 season is his last
OAKLAND -- Kevin Millwood has pitched his last game with the Mariners as he's not scheduled to start again after missing the past two weeks with a sore shoulder. But the veteran right-hander hasn't decided yet whether he's done with baseball after 16 seasons in the Majors.
"I'm going to go home and just relax and play with my kids and see what happens, see how I feel and see what pops into my head," Millwood said Friday. "I don't have any definite plans right now on next year, but I'm sure at some point in the offseason it'll hit me on what I want to do."
Millwood is 10th among active Major League pitchers with 169 career wins and fourth in starts and innings pitched. Calling it a career would not be an easy decision.
"This is all I've done," he said. "I started playing 10 days after I graduated from high school and this is what I've done for nearly 20 years. So all the sudden to not do it anymore would be a pretty big shock to the system."
Millwood, 37, signed with the Mariners on a Minor League deal and wound up making the club and starting 28 games, going 6-12 with a 4.25 ERA. But he admits he was more certain last year that he wanted to continue, even after a year spent in the Minors with the Yankees and Red Sox before he caught on with the Rockies for the final two months.
"I knew I wanted to play this year," he said. "But like I said, now I'm just trying to figure out physically if I can do it. I still definitely believe I can get people out, but whether it's time to stay home and spend more time with my kids or try it again, I don't know the answer to that yet.
"I'm in a great position. I feel like if I want to come back, I'll be able to. And if the best decision for me is to stay at home after this year, then I'm OK, too. It's a good spot to be in."
Millwood brought a veteran presence to a young Mariners club and said he liked that role, though he wishes he'd seen a little more success on the mound.
"I really enjoyed this," he said. "I feel like I threw the ball OK. I think I threw the ball better than it looks, but I had a lot of fun with the young kids and trying to help those guys out. That's a fun part of the game, helping somebody out and seeing them go out on the mound and have success."
Millwood has two sons, 11 and 9, and much of the lure away from baseball is spending more time with them back home in Gainesville, Ga. He coached them in basketball last offseason and looks forward to doing that again.
But, no, he won't be looking to get into coaching professional baseball when he's done.
"I can't deal with egos and there's a lot of them in this game," he said with a grin. "I would be a bad coach."
Gutierrez expected back in lineup on Saturday
OAKLAND -- Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez was held out of Friday's series opener against the A's due to a sore neck after slamming into the wall in Anaheim on Thursday, but says he expects to be back by Saturday.
"I feel good," Gutierrez said prior to Friday's game. "It's just a day-off today. I don't have any headaches or anything. Just a little stiff in my neck, but nothing too bad. I think I'll be back tomorrow."
Manager Eric Wedge would like to see Gutierrez in the outfield along with Michael Saunders and Casper Wells to close out the year, but getting all three healthy and available at the same time has been a season-long issue.
"It has been a challenge," Wedge said. "I was looking forward to seeing it again today, but it didn't happen. We'll try again tomorrow. It could be a separator for us, the way those three can play the outfield, with their arms, their coverage and their ability. I think it's a real good outfield when we've got those three out there."
Gutierrez, 29, has been hampered by injuries the past two years and has played just 38 games, hitting .259 with four home runs and 17 RBIs. He opened the year on the disabled list with a partially torn pectoral muscle, then missed another two months after getting a concussion when he was hit in the head by a pickoff throw.
• The Mariners have played 53 one-run games going into Friday's contest, going 25-28. Since the start of 2008, Seattle is tied with the Twins for the most one-run games in the Majors at 259.
• Saturday's 1:07 p.m. game against the A's will not be televised, since it is in the exclusive Saturday FOX national time slot, but was not picked up by the network.