CHICAGO -- Franklin Gutierrez has rarely been a leadoff hitter in his Major League career, but the Mariners center fielder has made an immediate impact there in the early going this season.
Gutierrez hit safely in Seattle's first five games and was batting .412 going into Saturday's contest with the White Sox. Not only has he been swinging a steady bat, he's hit with power, leading off games on Wednesday and Friday with home runs.
But in typical Guti fashion, he's not looking to make a big deal of any of that.
"Oh man," said the 30-year-old. "I'm just trying to get on base. That's it. Obviously in the leadoff spot, when the game is starting, they throw more fastballs, so I'm trying to be ready for that. If I hit it good, it can go out. So I'm fine with that."
Gutierrez is splitting the leadoff role with Michael Saunders. He'll lead off against left-handed pitchers, with Saunders leading off against righties. The biggest issue with Gutierrez is keeping him healthy after he played just 132 games over the past two seasons because of various ailments.
For that reason, manager Eric Wedge didn't have him in the lineup on Saturday as he brings him along slowly after some leg soreness late in Spring Training. The White Sox started right-hander Dylan Axelrod, but Wedge said that wasn't why Gutierrez was rested.
"It's not so much right-left. It's just about when I feel Gut needs a day," Wedge said. "I'm trying to keep him ahead of it. It was a long night last night and with the cold weather and everything, I felt like it was the smart thing to give him a day today. I like playing them both all the time, but we're still working everybody through and doing what we need to do.
"He's performed great. We just want to try to continue to help him physically and make sure we stay ahead of everything."
Wedge does like what he's seen of Gutierrez in the leadoff role, which he had filled only 16 times in 721 career games prior to this season.
"I think the dynamic of him and Saunders up top is going to work for us," Wedge said. "I do like the right-left in regard to the leadoff spot with those two when they're both in there, then plug the other one in behind him. If one of them isn't in there, then we can push [Kyle] Seager in there, which has worked out well for us. It's nice to have these options."
New radio announcer Goldsmith enjoying first week
CHICAGO -- New Mariners radio announcer Aaron Goldsmith is just like any other rookie getting started in his career as he's soaking up the experience of the Major Leagues in his first week of regular-season broadcasts.
Goldsmith, 29, was working as a Triple-A announcer for the Red Sox before being hired this year by the Mariners to work alongside veteran play-by-play man Rick Rizzs. The two called Spring Training games together and now are in full swing on 710 ESPN Seattle and the Mariners Radio Network broadcasts.
"It's been a complete thrill," Goldsmith said. "It's funny because when we went to Oakland, everybody was telling me the ballparks get better after this. But that was the best ballpark I'd ever been to, especially on Opening Night. So it's hard to believe it's happening, and we're here and we're doing it."
Goldsmith said he had some initial nerves, but things have gone well thanks to a full Spring Training to get up to speed. It's been a progression for him, learning a new team and doing Major League games for the first time, but he's feeling more at ease and thinks that will only continue to get better.
"The big thing for me, when I did the first 15 games of spring, I was thinking so much about what I was saying and kind of forcing it at times," he said. "Every player's name and the opposing team and everything was new, so there was a lot of effort. I was the giraffe on ice skates for the first two weeks.
"Now things are flowing and they'll flow even better a month from now. It got a little tougher again when we started in Oakland. That first game I definitely had a little bit of butterflies, but I'm so happy that we had 30-some broadcasts during the spring. I'd have been a train wreck if we'd just gone straight into the real thing on Opening Night."
Goldsmith said his security blanket from the start has been working with Rizzs, who is in his 29th year calling Mariners games.
"Rick has been beyond outstanding to me," he said. "Just to have him by my side and have that chemistry we've built up in the two months in Arizona, it made Opening Night and everything since that much more enjoyable."
Pryor gives Mariners much needed bullpen durability
CHICAGO -- With their starting pitchers averaging just five innings over the last three starts, the Mariners have needed to get a little more length out of some of their relievers, and Stephen Pryor stepped up big with two perfect frames in Friday's 10-inning, 8-6 victory over the White Sox.
The 23-year-old pitched two innings just once in 26 appearances last year as a rookie.
"He's a young relief pitcher who is very strong," said manager Eric Wedge. "He needs to be able to do that, especially in games like yesterday's. You go through three games in a row where you get four, six and six innings from your starters, your bullpen has to really step up. And they have."
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Pryor is one of the young power arms in the bullpen, consistently throwing in the mid-90s with his fastball. But he started Paul Konerko out with a 77-mph curve on Friday, and he is gaining confidence in his secondary pitches.
"It's part of what he does," said Wedge. "He uses all his pitches and can do so at any time. He's more of a complete pitcher."
• Tickets still remain for the Mariners home opener on Monday against the Astros, with Joe Saunders slated to face Philip Humber, the right-hander who threw the perfect game against Seattle last year for the White Sox.
Former Mariner Erik Bedard is scheduled to throw Tuesday for the Astros against Seattle rookie Brandon Maurer, with Blake Beavan facing Brad Peacock on Wednesday. All three games in the Astros series are at 7:10 p.m.
• If the Mariners and Rangers stay in rotation through the coming week, they'll have some nice pitching matches. Matt Harrison would face Felix Hernandez in Thursday's series opener, with Yu Darvish matching up against Hisashi Iwakuma on Friday.