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March 25, 2011 at 10:19 PM

Mariners manager Eric Wedge says team would have to “get a little bit creative” to start season with Franklin Gutierrez even if he feels better

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The Mariners cruised to an easy 6-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on this split-squad day. Neither team scored after the third inning. Erik Bedard tossed 5 1/3 scoreless frames of three-hit ball in an 85-pitch effort that has him looking ready to start the season.
Miguel Olivo caught six innings and had a two-run single that undressed Dodgers starter John Ely as it scorched past him on the mound. We also saw Matt Tuiasosopo hit his first home run of the spring, a two-run blast off Ely in the third.
All of that rates as good news.
In the photo above, you see Josh Lueke, who gave up a pair of hits in a scoreless ninth. The bullpen is one area where the team has a lot of decisions to make, most of them involving non-roster players.
Another decision, this one likely to be made in the next 24 hours, concerns Franklin Gutierrez, who underwent that additional medical test today. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the team is trying to get the results by tomorrow morning. But once again, hearing Wedge speak tonight after the game, you don’t get the impression Gutierrez is going to make it for opening day.

Wedge said tonight that, even if Gutierrez is cleared to play by all the tests, his physical conditioning is now an issue and it’s unlikely he could be in the lineup every day to start the season. I started by asking Wedge if there was any chance he could get Gutierrez in tomorrow’s lineup if the tests green-light him. His answer evolved into what’s coming as the season opens.
“I’ve been wrestling with that,” he said. “I really have been wrestling with that. I would say, at best, (there’s) an outside shot at it. And if we do do that, if we can make that work, we’re still going to be limited as we get into the season in regard to playing time.
“If we do go for it, we’re going to have to be a little bit creative. It’s obviously the baseball prep of it, but it’s also the physical side of it, too. So, we’ve got to take both those things into consideration.”
Yesterday, on Geoff Baker Live! we showed you a clip of Wedge speaking post-game about the rapidly-approaching cutoff date for Gutierrez to get in a spring game.
Wedge said tonight that it’s getting down to crunch time in regards to pinpointing who will join the team in Oakland next week to start the year. One player who will be is non-roster invite Adam Kennedy, who make a couple of nice-ranging defensive plays as a second baseman early tonight.
Listening to Wedge answer my question about whether Kennedy had shown him what he expected to see this spring, there’s little doubt Kennedy will be in Oakland as a backup infielder.
“He really has,” Wedge said. “It’s challenging when you’re asking somebody to work at as many positions that we’re asking him to work and he’s been totally on-board with it.

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“There are a lot of days when you guys aren’t seeing him. We’ll send him down to the minor leagues and he’ll pop up at left field, or first base or wherever it may be.
“So, he’s done a tremendous job with all of that.”
Wedge felt Olivo put up some good at-bats tonight despite his lack of playing time after straining his groin three weeks ago tomorrow. Look for Olivo to be there for the season opener.
In the earlier game, we saw Aaron Laffey go four innings and strike out four batters while not allowing a run.
No, the team is not looking to make Laffey into a starter. But with the uncertainty in the rotation, the team is looking to stretch Laffey out.
“He was putting the ball on the ground, he was aggressive,” Wedge said.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ve seen Doug Fister struggle at times this spring, while Bedard hasn’t pitched since 2009 and Michael Pineda is a rookie. The Mariners may need their bullpen to pick up a lot of innings, especially early on. David Pauley is out of minor league options and will make the club as a long reliever. Laffey will likely make it as one left hander (Royce Ring as the situational southpaw) and it won’t hurt to have him capable of acting as almost a second long-man if needed.



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