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April 19, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Franklin Gutierrez is out again due to stiffness in his legs

Franklin Gutierrez will miss a second consecutive game and fifth in just over a week.

Franklin Gutierrez will miss a second consecutive game and fifth in just over a week.

Franklin Gutierrez is not in the lineup for a second straight game tonight and the reason is continued stiffness in his legs. This will be the fifth game missed by Gutierrez in just over a week. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said today he’s trying to manage the situation as best he can and can’t afford to lose Gutierrez long-term at this stage.

“We’re still trying to help him with his lower half,” Wedge said. “I think it’s tough with his hips, where it gets a little bit out of line and that’s where it affects his legs.”

Wedge said the latest issues cropped up after the 14-inning loss on Wednesday night.

“He didn’t feel very good yesterday,” Wedge said. “He feels better today, so we’ll see how it goes out here (in batting practice) and go from there.”

Wedge will use the BP session to detemrine whether Gutierrez could be used at all in tonight’s game and to what extent. In other words, can he play the outfield, or pinch-run if needed?

“We’re trying to manage it,” Wedge said. “It’s tough but I talked to him in here today. We’re communicating with him, the trainers keep talking to him and hopefully we can get on the good side of this.”

Michael Saunders took early BP today and told me he feels good and is planning to play the first day he’s eligible to come off the 15-day DL next week.

And that means, as I wrote this morning, that the Mariners will have a decision to make. If they try to outright Endy Chavez to the minors, they’d risk losing him to a waiver claim and then would have no center field backup plan if Saunders gets hurt again. We’ve now seen that Gutierrez can’t play every day and needs a second center fielder around at all times.

That means the Mariners might have to part ways with Raul Ibanez or Jason Bay. Wedge would prefer to wait until Saunders is ready to come off the DL before worrying too much about what’s going to happen. But he admits a tough decision does loom.

I asked Wedge whether he could envision any scenario where he’d carry six outfielders on the 25-man squad.

“That would be tough to do,” he said, shaking his head. “That would be tough to do.”

┬áBrendan Ryan is out today and that’s not much of a surprise given his plunging batting average — now at .167 — and inability to get the bunt down the other day. Bunting is one of his stronger suits and the fact he couldn’t do it may be a sign he’s got doubts creeping into his head again.

So, he’s getting the night off and we could see Robert Andino get more playing time going forward if Ryan does not improve.

“We just need him to turn the corner,” Wedge said. “We’ve talked about that before in that he gets in his own way sometimes.”

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