The Seattle Mariners hope the season debut of talented outfielder Franklin Gutierrez will be the boost they need to end their latest rough stretch.
Gutierrez is expected to be in the lineup Thursday night when the Mariners try to avoid a fifth straight loss overall and a home sweep by the San Diego Padres.
A Gold Glove winner in 2010 who set career highs with 18 homers and 70 RBIs in 2009, Gutierrez has been out all season with foot and chest injuries. Stomach problems and an oblique strain limited him to 92 games in 2011, when he batted .224 with one home run and 19 RBIs.
Now, with all the physical issues behind him, Gutierrez is eager to focus on regaining his past major league success.
"Finally, I'm back and healthy now,'' he said. "It feels like the first time I was called up. It's so exciting to be here again.''
He is expected to be in center field for the series finale with Michael Saunders moving to left.
"(Gutierrez is) not going to play seven days a week," manager Eric Wedge told the Mariners' official website. "We're going to be careful with him. My goal is to keep him healthy, which he hasn't been able to do for a while."
Wedge will be cautious, but he also hopes Gutierrez can provide a jump start for a team that has totaled nine runs during its four-game skid.
Jesus Montero had three hits Wednesday but the Mariners (27-37) went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position en route to a 1-0 loss. The Padres' Jason Marquis and three relievers combined to keep Seattle scoreless for the seventh time this season.
Yonder Alonso homered and Chase Headley singled to extend his hitting streak to 10 games for San Diego, which improved to 4-1 in interleague play. Headley is batting .366 during his hitting streak.
Regular opponents since the start of interleague play in 1997, San Diego (22-41) has never swept a series from Seattle. Also looking for their first three-game winning streak of 2012, the Padres may achieve both feats if scheduled starter Edinson Volquez (2-6, 3.91 ERA) can turn things around.
The right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.86 ERA in five starts since winning at Philadelphia on May 12, but his teammates have totaled four runs with him on the mound during those outings. Volquez was tagged for a season-high six runs and three homers in five innings of a 9-5 loss at Milwaukee on Friday.
He is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three career starts against the Mariners but hasn't faced them since 2007, while pitching for Texas.
The Padres will get their first look at Seattle rookie Erasmo Ramirez (0-0, 2.45), who makes his first career start.
The 22-year-old right-hander made seven appearances out of the bullpen this season before getting demoted last month to Triple-A Tacoma, where he went 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA in seven starts. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his most recent minor league outing Friday.
"I'm excited because they gave me a chance as a reliever and I did the best I can. ... And now they call me a starter, and I'm happy because most of my professional career has been starter," Ramirez said. "It's something I want to do."
- Seattle Mariners
- Franklin Gutierrez
- San Diego Padres