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06/13/12 10:00 PM ET

Guti overjoyed to be back with Mariners

SEATTLE -- Franklin Gutierrez rejoined the Mariners on Wednesday and said he felt like a kid again after all the time he's missed.

The 2010 Gold Glove center fielder was activated off the disabled list for the first time this season after recovering from a torn pectoral muscle suffered early in Spring Training and then a bout with plantar fasciitis in his heel.

Gutierrez wasn't in the lineup for Wednesday's game against the Padres, but he will start in center field on Thursday, according to manager Eric Wedge, with Michael Saunders shifting to left.

"I feel great. I feel happy," Gutierrez said. "Finally I'm back and healthy. I feel like the first time I got called up. It's so exciting to be here again."

Gutierrez also missed the final month of 2011, another injury-plagued season in which he played just 92 games, while also missing the first two months with a digestive disorder.

"He'll be our center fielder," Wedge said. "He's not going to play seven days a week. We're going to be careful with him. My goal is to keep him healthy, which he hasn't been able to do for a while. Obviously we feel very good about Michael out in center field as well, but Gut is one of the best center fielders in the game.

"Michael has been doing nothing but getting better out there as well. When they're both playing, Michael will be in left. And that is a pretty good outfield when you put those three guys out there [with Ichiro Suzuki]."

Gutierrez hit just .211 in 10 rehab games in Triple-A Tacoma, but said he's regaining his timing and is getting over the typical soreness felt during the start of Spring Training. Now he's just eager to play after so much time away. His last start at Safeco Field was on Sept. 1.

"I've been patient a long time," Gutierrez said. "Sometimes when this type of thing happens, it makes you stronger in your mind. That's the way it is and you have to keep going. So that's where I am right now. I'm very happy because I'm back with my team, seeing everybody, and hopefully I'll be on the field soon."

And when he is in the lineup Thursday?

"I think it's going to be very emotional because I don't remember the last time I was playing on a regular basis out there," Gutierrez said. "If I'm playing tomorrow, it's going to be a very special day for me."

Millwood's turn moved to Saturday

SEATTLE -- Veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood threw again on the field prior to Wednesday's game and the Mariners have penciled him in to return to the rotation on Saturday against the Giants' Tim Lincecum.

Millwood originally was slated to pitch Thursday, but his spot was pushed back two days as he's recovering from a slight groin pull that forced him out of Friday's start. That outing turned out to be a combined no-hitter, with Millwood throwing the first six innings against the Dodgers.

"I'm feeling good," he said. "It seems like it's getting a little better every day. I'm definitely trying not to push it too hard, but I'll do whatever it allows me to do. I'll throw a bullpen tomorrow and see where we're at from there."

As for the no-hitter and all that hoopla?

"I really haven't thought much of it, to be honest," he said. "All I've thought about the last few days is trying to get back on the mound. I'm sure at some point I'll sit down and think about it. It was a pretty cool deal. But, for me, the bigger issue is just getting back on the mound."

Ramirez ready to seize starting opportunity

SEATTLE -- Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez is back in the Major Leagues, and the 22-year-old couldn't be happier.

After starting the season in the Mariners' bullpen, the team sent the rookie to Triple-A Tacoma on May 5 to increase his arm strength with the idea that he would rejoin the club as a starter. Amid a flurry of other moves, the Mariners recalled Ramirez on Wednesday to take the rotation spot vacated by Blake Beavan, who was optioned to Tacoma.

Ramirez is scheduled to start Thursday in the Mariners' series finale against the Padres.

"It's something I want to do," he said. "I'm excited because they gave me a chance as a reliever and I did the best I can. ... And now they call me a starter, and I'm happy because most of my professional career has been starter. All my career I've been starter, and now I've got the chance to start the game."

Ramirez went 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA in seven starts with Tacoma, striking out 29 and walking seven. In his last start, he carried a no-hitter through 7 2/3 and ended up allowing two runs on two hits in eight innings.

The adjustment for Ramirez was tough at first, he said. Not only did he have to reinstate a windup, but he also worked on the timing and release point of his breaking balls. In addition, his mindset had to change from hitter to hitter to thinking about pitching deep into games.

"When you're [a starter] it's like, 'All right, you go to the seventh, you go to the eighth, maybe a chance you go to the ninth,' in case you don't have a lot of pitches in an inning," Ramirez said. "Most of the time I was working on that. Even if I get tired in the seventh, keep my arm up."

In 11 relief appearances this season with the Mariners, Ramirez allowed three runs on nine hits, walked four and struck out five.

Worth noting

• Going into Wednesday's action, Michael Saunders had the fifth highest OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in the Majors by a left-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers at .937. Ahead of him on the list? Bryce Harper (1.149), Josh Hamilton (1.010), Joe Mauer .985) and Joey Votto (.978).

• The Mariners have the best Interleague ERA in the Majors since the cross-league play began in 1997 at 3.57 in 273 games. The Yankees are second at 3.86.

• Luis Rodriguez and Mike Wilson each had two home runs in Tacoma's 14-10 victory over Salt Lake on Wednesday at Cheney Stadium. Rodriguez went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and is batting .317. Wilson raised his average to .254 with a 4-for-5 day. Both played with the Mariners for a time last year.

• Bob "Scrap Iron" Stinson, a catcher on the original Mariners team in 1977, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday's game, and Harold Reynolds is tossing the first pitch on Saturday as part of the ongoing 35th anniversary celebration.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.