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Seattle Mariners

M’s Gutierrez having a healthy spring

Sun., March 3, 2013, midnight

PEORIA, Ariz. – If Franklin Gutierrez can stay healthy this season, the Seattle Mariners would be ecstatic.

So far this spring, he’s been giving a glimpse of what they’ve been missing in recent seasons when Gutierrez battled injuries and illness.

Saturday, Gutierrez drove in four runs in a Mariners victory..

Gutierrez had a spring first Saturday – a hit that wasn’t a homer.

After launching his third round-tripper of the spring, a two-run liner into the bullpen behind left field off the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley in the third inning, Gutierrez “settled” for a two-run double his next time up.

“I’m not looking for homers,” Gutierrez said. “I’m just seeing the ball well right now.”

Gutierrez’s performance is encouraging to manager Eric Wedge, who watched him look great early in camp last year only to get dragged down with a pulled pectoral muscle.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Wedge said. “Obviously, he’s an established hitter. He has a very professional approach up there, and he’s strong. It’s great to see him playing the way he’s playing right now.”

Gutierrez has been hitting out of the leadoff spot, which could be putting some thoughts into Wedge’s head. Dustin Ackley has been thought to be the likely leadoff hitter.

“We’ve been messing around with him up top for a little bit,” Wedge said. “We’ve had a few people up there.

“We’ll see how it plays out. I think the good thing about this particular year is we’re going to have more options, whether it be the top of the lineup or the middle of the order.”

Hernandez to throw

Pitching coach Carl Willis said Felix Hernandez will throw his second live session today. Willis called it a “batting practice slash simulated game” and said it will be “a little more intense than the other day, and the other day was really good.”

Willis added that “if all is well,” Hernandez will make his first spring start Thursday, when the Mariners have split-squad games against Oakland and Kansas City. Hernandez is likely to face the Royals.

Willis said he doesn’t foresee any problem with Hernandez being ready for his opening-day start on April 1 in Oakland.

“Really, his timetable, everyone is under the impression he’s behind,” Willis said. “We started games on Feb. 22; he didn’t need to start that soon. He’ll be at 95 to 100 pitches by the time we get out of camp. We still have the time to make that happen. He’s basically on the same schedule he’s been on, not necessarily last year because of the Japan trip, but the previous two springs. It’s the same timetable.”

Catching his eye

Mike Zunino hit his first homer of the spring on Saturday, and another young catcher, John Hicks, caught Wedge’s eye.

Hicks, a fourth-round choice out of the University of Virginia in 2011, had a single for his fourth hit in seven at-bats. He also has been impressive with his defense.

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