By Larry LaRue
The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Gold Glove outfielder Franklin Gutierrez took a major step forward in his comeback from a concussion Saturday when he played catch — his first baseball-related activity since he was hit by an errant pickoff throw on June 29.
“A little each day until they’re sure I’m OK,” Gutierrez said.
Hit behind the right ear with a pickoff throw, Gutierrez hadn’t even picked up a baseball the last two weeks, and still hasn’t run, caught a fly ball or swung a bat. Once he’s past any residual dizziness, however, the team expects him to respond quickly.
“Unless his timing is way off, I don’t think he’ll need that much time before he’s ready to play,” manager Eric Wedge said, although the team is planning on a short rehabilitation minor league assignment.
Gutierrez, who missed much of last season with irritable bowel syndrome, has been sidelined in 2012 by a shoulder injury, foot problems and a concussion, appearing in only 13 games.
“He’ll come with us on this next trip, and we’ll test him in every aspect of the game before we send him out,” Wedge said.
Who will start?
When the Mariners begin their next trip with four games in Kansas City they have to find a starting pitcher for Game 2 on Tuesday.
Who will it be? Wedge wouldn’t say, and that’s almost certainly because the pitcher in question isn’t on the Seattle roster at the moment. Where is he? Most likely, with Tacoma.
No one will say for certain, and there are options, but it’s likely right-hander Blake Beavan will get the chance to audition for the role he had to open the 2012 season, in part because no one else in the minors seems quite ready.
Options? The Mariners could go with left-hander Charlie Furbush, who has been so effective out of the bullpen (4-2, 2.21). Furbush, however, wouldn’t be ready to go more than three innings, and his start might decimate the bullpen for the remainder of the trip.
Third baseman Kyle Seager, the team’s leading RBI producer, was dropped to seventh in the lineup Saturday. Why? “We don’t have many roles locked down yet, and every day we look at the matchup and put together the best lineup for that game,” Wedge said. … Left-handed hitting catcher John Jaso doesn’t usually play against left-handed pitching, but with the Mariners about to face four consecutive southpaws, Wedge said Jaso will get in at least one start if not more. … Add Jaso: Now 5-for-12 as a pinch-hitter, Jaso could become just the fifth player in Mariners history to collect as many as 10 pinch hits in a single season. The first four: Larry Milbourne, Scott Bradley, Henry Cotto and Doug Strange. The team record: 12 in 1979 by Milbourne. … Happy Anniversary: 13 years ago today Safeco Field opened.
Larry LaRue, The News Tribune