07/31/12 9:28 PM ET
Thames happy for fresh start with Mariners
By Greg Johns and Josh Liebeskind / MLB.com
In fact, it was his infectious personality and constant smile that stood out more than anything as he strolled through the clubhouse and took batting practice with the Mariners prior to Tuesday's game against his former team.
"It's amazing. It's a fresh start," Thames said. "With everything that happened in Toronto this year, it's nice to be able to join a great group of individuals and a great team. I played with some of these guys in the Fall League and [it's a] young group and guys are developing, just like myself. Exciting to be part of it."
In the odd circumstances that always seem to come near the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Thames had just stepped to the plate and fouled off the first pitch he saw in his fourth at-bat for Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday when the team's hitting coach called him over. The coach told him Travis Snider had been traded from the big league club and so Thames went into the clubhouse to pack, assuming he'd been called up.
Of course he quickly learned that the team that had drafted him had traded him to the Mariners. In another odd twist, with the Mariners in the midst of a three-game set with the Blue Jays, he was able to see his former teammates again Tuesday.
It's all part of the journey, one that Thames said he has learned that he can't completely control. Thames began the year with the Blue Jays and hit .243 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 46 games but was optioned to Las Vegas in late May. He was hitting .330 with six home runs and 32 RBIs in 54 games in Triple-A this season.
"It was my first time dealing with the intangible things in baseball," Thames said. "As a ballplayer you can't control everything. You can't control where you get sent, if the organization is happy with you, if you're driving the ball or not. [What] I did is focus on myself in the Minor Leagues, regroup and know I just need to focus on playing the game the right way, respect it, play hard and the chips will fall as they should."
As far as his new team, Thames is excited to get going and help the young Mariners build toward the future. Manager Eric Wedge said he would find playing time for the outfielder and Thames should get an opportunity to showcase his abilities.
"We've got two months left and this is a building year for this organization," Thames said. "I'm excited to get to know these players and this team and be a driving force with them."
Kinney reflects on nearly picking up first save
SEATTLE -- Josh Kinney has bounced around the Majors since 2006, a journeyman reliever who has pitched 67 games in parts of five different seasons with the Cardinals, White Sox and now Mariners.
At 33, he understands his situation and appreciates his opportunities. So you can imagine how the right-hander from Pennsylvania felt when he was lined up for the first save of his Major League career on Monday after getting the first two outs of the ninth in Seattle's 4-1 victory over Toronto ... only to have Eric Wedge take him out after he walked a batter.
Only on a night when Tom Wilhelmsen was absent for personal reasons and Brandon League and Steve Delabar were unavailable -- having been traded midgame to the Dodgers and Blue Jays, respectively -- would Kinney figure to have a chance for a save.
And then it slipped away with ball four to Kelly Johnson, with Wedge bringing in rookie Lucas Luetge to face left-handed pinch-hitter David Cooper and earn the save instead.
"My sinker was sinking pretty good. I really wasn't thinking if I walk this guy, I'm out of the game," said the affable Kinney. "I just figured I'd make him hit a sinker and he never swung. And I never threw a strike. And that was the end of my night. What can I say?
"In my mind, I really wanted that save. I really did. It's not like I'm disappointed, because we won the game. I understand the situation. And I'm actually pretty happy for Lucas because we talked about it before the game, with 'Leaguer' having thrown two days in a row, what are the chances of one of us getting a save down there?"
Turns out, it was Luetge getting his first save in his initial season in the bigs.
"Maybe I'll get another chance," Kinney said. "You never know. That's the way the game goes. This one just wasn't going to be my save. I'm really happy we won. We had a beer shower for Lucas and that was great. As long as we won the game and everybody did good. I'm just sorry to see a couple of our buddies go.
"And if I get another chance, next time I'll somehow, someway, nail it down. I had good stuff. I did. That's just the way it goes."
Gutierrez 'almost out of the woods' for Mariners
SEATTLE -- Nearly five weeks removed from a concussion incurred when he was hit in the head with a pickoff throw, Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez has been cleared by doctors to continue hitting, taking batting practice and running as he awaits his return to the field.
Gutierrez, 29, had more medical tests on Monday after continuing to feel some affects from the blow to the head he took when Boston pitcher Franklin Morales hit him in the right ear with a throw to first base on June 29.
Manager Eric Wedge said the news was positive and Gutierrez will likely continue working out with Triple-A Tacoma when the Mariners head out on a 10-day road trip to New York, Baltimore and Anaheim starting Friday.
"We're almost out of the woods here, but he still has to ramp up on the baseball side of things," Wedge said. "We'll have to see where he is after tomorrow, since we're leaving town. There's a good chance we'll send him out -- not on a rehab -- but let him continue working out in Tacoma as we go east and hopefully transition him there. But we just have to be open-minded with the timing on all that."
• Closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who left Monday's game to be with his wife as she went into labor, was back with the club Tuesday and said there was no news to report. Wilhelmsen said he expects to travel with the team when it heads to New York on Thursday for the start of a 10-day road trip.
• Hisashi Iwakuma became just the second Japanese-born pitcher to strike out 13 batters in a Major League game when he set a Mariners rookie record in Monday's 4-1 win over Toronto. Hideo Nomo struck out 13 or more seven times in his career, with a career high of 17.
• By going 14-11 in July heading into Tuesday's game, the Mariners were assured of their first .500 or better month since going 15-11 in May 2011.
• Michael Saunders is one of three Major League outfielders with at least 20 doubles, 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases, joining Mike Trout of the Angels and Alex Rios of the White Sox.
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.