SEATTLE -- Franklin Gutierrez would love to play baseball -- in a real game, at the Major League level. But injury after injury has put the Mariners outfielder on the bench more than the field since the start of the 2011 season.
Gutierrez is hopeful that he is finally in the last stage of recovery from his latest injury, plantar fasciitis, and will be able to rejoin the Mariners in the near future. But first, he'll need to successfully resume all baseball activities. That process started Tuesday, when Gutierrez took batting practice with the team prior to its game with the Rangers. The plan is for him to begin running Wednesday.
"I'm feeling more healthy, I guess, because of the rest that I've been having," said Gutierrez, who has been rehabbing in Seattle for about 15 days. "Been doing some treatment, a lot of stuff to get better. Today, I'm going to practice with the team. I'm not going to run, I'm just going to hit -- it's pretty good to be here with the team.
"Tomorrow is when I get my first day moving around and see how my foot feels, and depending on how it feels tomorrow, we're going to go from there. Right now, it feels pretty good, so let's see what happens when I run."
Gutierrez, who won a Gold Glove Award in 2010 in his second season with the Mariners, played in just 92 games in 2011 while dealing with irritable bowel syndrome. He then partially tore his right pectoral in February, which kept him out of the start of this season. While rehabbing that injury, Gutierrez developed plantar fasciitis, which has delayed his comeback.
"So [much] time out right now, the last two years have been really tough for me, but I'm working hard trying to get healthy and just be here for the team," Gutierrez said. "Imagine two years without being healthy at all. Right now, I've been hitting, I've been throwing, doing my workouts in the gym and trying to be in shape."
"We're hoping to get him out at the end of the week, get him down to Arizona to play a few games and if all goes well, get him out to rehab," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He just needs to stay healthy, nothing more and nothing less. It's been all about the heel for the last two or three weeks. He's been throwing fine, he's been hitting fine, so it's just about him being able to move around and that heel not giving him any problems."
Mariners seek better production with RISP
SEATTLE -- Lately, when the wins have come for the Mariners, one can look at good production at the plate with runners in scoring position. During the losses, that production has been suspect, at best.
Even though the Mariners beat the Rangers, 6-1, on Monday, their hitting with runners in scoring position (2-for-9) was nowhere near where they would like it to be. Those struggles were highlighted when the team loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning but scored just one run.
"I think with runners in scoring position, you need to be taking less pitches," said Dustin Ackley, who had an RBI single with the bases loaded Monday. "I feel like when you get up there, you need to be looking for the first pitch you can get to the outfield, or if the infield's back, maybe get a ground ball. I think with that, it's just all about giving yourself up. Trading an out for a run I think is the biggest thing with runners in scoring position."
Ackley pointed to Texas' Michael Young and Boston's Adrian Gonzalez as players to emulate in those situations, saying with runners in scoring position, they won't wait around for the perfect pitch. But Ackley also believes as the Mariners offense improves, it's production with runners in scoring position will pick up, as well.
"You only get so many opportunities, especially the pitchers in this league, as good as everybody is," third baseman Kyle Seager added. "You got to kind of make the most of your opportunities. When you're not making the most of your opportunities, when you're not hitting with guys in scoring position, it doesn't really matter how many hits you get.
"I felt like towards the end [of the last road trip] we started doing a better job getting some hits with guys in scoring position."
Wedge balances winning, player development
SEATTLE -- Throughout the course of a game, Mariners manager Eric Wedge has to deal with a dilemma: winning vs. development.
"The No. 1 priority up here is always winning, but player development is a big part of what we're doing up here just because of our youth," Wedge said. "We're coming out here looking to win every night, but we're doing it with young kids.
"There's certain points in time where you make decisions throughout the course of the ballgame, which is about the [development] because you give this kid one more out or one more [at-bat] or you give him a little bit more of an opportunity, it's going to come back and help you win more ballgames down the road."
Wedge said it's a fine line getting the younger players time because there are so many guys that need to play. But he has been balancing the dilemma all season, and has used right- and left-handed matchups as a way to get bench players into the lineup.
Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo made his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts as the designated hitter. Olivo, on the disabled list with a strained right groin, is expected to catch Wednesday and hopefully rejoin the Mariners this weekend.
Ichiro Suzuki has 290 career hits against Texas, second only to George Brett (291). Ichiro has a chance to eclipse Brett on Tuesday and Wednesday in Seattle and then again in Texas on May 28-30.
The Mariners entered Tuesday's game with the Rangers on a four-game winning streak, tied for their longest of the season. They have not won five straight since May 18-23 of last season, when they took six consecutive contests.