Healthy Gutierrez impresses Mariners with power
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Franklin Gutierrez is known more for his glove than his home run power, but the Mariners center fielder had everyone talking with Tuesday's blast over the batter's eye in center field at Maryvale Stadium.
Any question of Gutierrez's strength this spring was answered with the two-run shot off Brewers No. 1 starter Yovani Gallardo. The bolt carried at least 450 feet, given it sailed over the 30-foot high barrier that sits behind the 400-foot center-field fence.
"What people don't realize is that in that stadium, the batter's eye is 20 feet or so behind the wall," said Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders. "So that's impressive. And it was off a pretty good pitcher, too. That's a good sign.
"Obviously everybody knows what he brings to the table defensively," said Saunders. "And he can be a pretty potent offensive threat, too. We need him in our lineup. That's really good to see."
Gutierrez has hit just five home runs over the past two injury-plagued seasons, but did hit 18 long balls in 2009 and 12 in 2010. But, no, none of them have rivaled the ball he smoked Tuesday.
"I don't know what to say," said Gutierrez. "I just hit that ball good. That's the best I can hit. That's the longest homer of my life. Sometimes you just hit the ball really good."
Gutierrez surprised even himself when he cleared the batter's eye, which Brewers slugger Ryan Braun said is something that rarely even happens in batting practice at that stadium.
"To be honest, I knew I hit it good, but I didn't think the ball was over that wall," Gutierrez said. "I realized when I was running around my first base, 'Oh my God.' I impressed myself on that one."
The Mariners are just looking for Gutierrez to stay healthy after he played only 40 games last year and 92 in 2011.
"He's seeing the ball well, he's strong and in great shape," manager Eric Wedge said. "He looks good here early on. He is stronger. He's done a nice job getting his body in a place where it's very playable, yet strong on top of that. He looks good."
Gutierrez isn't the only Mariner muscling up early. Justin Smoak hit a ball that might have traveled just as far on Tuesday, his second homer of the year sailing over the right-field berm in Maryvale. On Monday, Alex Liddi uncorked what Wedge said was one of the furthest home runs he's seen in his three years now in Peoria.
"Maybe," said Gutierrez, "we need to save these home runs for the season."
Durable Loe could be an asset in Mariners' bullpen
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Kameron Loe has been one of the more durable relievers in the Majors the past two years with 142 appearances for the Brewers and the 6-foot-8 right-hander is getting a good look early from the Mariners this spring.
Loe, 31, is a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal, but the club likes his experience and versatility as a former starter with the Rangers who emerged as a quality setup man for Milwaukee the past three seasons.
Loe went two innings Tuesday against his former Brewers teammates and gave up one unearned run on two hits, before eventually heading over to the home clubhouse and exchanging hugs and hellos with his old pals.
"They know me and I know them, so it was just fun," Loe said. "I really enjoyed the competition. I might have had a few nerves and was rushing to the plate a little in the first inning. Partly because it was them, and it's my second outing of the spring and I'm trying to make a statement here. I had a little extra nerves, but I settled down and started throwing strikes."
The Mariners could use a reliever capable of throwing multiple innings, and didn't waste any time putting Loe into that situation.
"I don't know what they're thinking, but I did that a lot with Milwaukee in 2010," he said. "John Axford and I were covering the seventh, eighth and ninth. I'd pitch like five outs and he'd come in for the last four. That probably happened 20 times that season."
Loe still hasn't ruled out returning to a starting role at some point in his career. He says he'd love to get that chance now that he's developed a better changeup than when he was with the Rangers.
"It's just another weapon," Loe said.
Which could be true of Loe as well, if the Mariners decide the big man fits in their bullpen plans.
Peguero puts on a power display Wednesday
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Power has never been a problem for Carlos Peguero, a point proven again Wednesday by the massive Mariners outfielder as he slugged two home runs in Seattle's 5-1 victory over the Indians.
For Peguero, the issue is finding a consistent plate approach and discipline to improve his contact rate after hitting .191 in 199 at-bats in the Majors over parts of the past two seasons.
But when the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Dominican does hit a baseball, it can go a long way. He launched a nice opposite-field home run in the third inning Wednesday off Indians starter Brett Myers, then followed it with a majestic shot to right field in the fourth off reliever Corey Kluber.
Peguero was most pleased with his opposite-field shot and he followed that with another hard-hit ball the other way in the sixth that was ruled an error on the third baseman.
"The guys hitting in front of me said he's not throwing too hard, so just try to go the other way and put a good swing on the ball and see what happens," said the 26-year-old.
Peguero is a long shot to make the 25-man roster, given the crowded outfield situation after the addition of Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay to a group that already included Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders and Casper Wells. But he's off to a nice start, his 2-for-4 game Wednesday putting him at .444 (4-for-9) in Cactus League play.
Manager Eric Wedge said Peguero did a better job staying tall at the plate Wednesday, which helps shorten his swing. But he acknowledged it's a long work in progress.
"I think his discipline is a little better," said Wedge. "It needs to continue to improve, but he just needs to be in a good, consistent position when that front foot gets down and he's ready to take a swing at it. He's working to try to do that."
• Veteran right-hander Jon Garland will get his first start Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz., against the Giants and is expected to throw one inning. Garland, trying to make the team as a non-roster invitee, hasn't thrown in a game since undergoing rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder in 2011 while with the Dodgers.
Blake Beavan will follow Garland and is scheduled to throw three innings, with Erasmo Ramirez set for the following two frames as the Mariners begin extending their starting candidates.
• Left-hander James Paxton gets the starting call Friday for two innings against the Rangers in Peoria, with Brandon Maurer also slated to throw two frames in that game.
• Neither of the Wednesday or Thursday games are available on live radio, but will be streamed live for free on Mariners.com to anyone who registers. The games will be on 710 ESPN Seattle at 7 p.m. PT on a delayed basis.
The Mariners' three weekend games -- Friday through Sunday -- will be carried live by 710 ESPN Seattle at 1:05 p.m. MT (12:05 p.m. PT). The first of six televised broadcasts of the spring will be Monday afternoon's game against the Rockies.