Gutierrez's sweet swing a welcome sight

33-year-old homers twice in first four Cactus League at-bats

Gutierrez's sweet swing a welcome sight

PEORIA, Ariz. -- One of the positive sights this spring at Mariners camp is a healthy Franklin Gutierrez, who has been on the field for every practice and game situation to date as he prepares for his second season since returning from a year off while dealing with his ankylosing spondylitis nerve condition.

A year ago, Gutierrez only took part in some of the early Spring Training work as he eased his way back into condition. He opened the season in Triple-A Tacoma, but was called up on June 24 and wound up batting .292 with 15 home runs and 35 RBIs in 59 games.

The 33-year-old has picked right up where he left off this spring, slugging two home runs in his first four at-bats in two Cactus League appearances, including a solo blast in Saturday's 9-7 loss to the Angels.

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"I'm just trying to make contact," Gutierrez said.

More important to the seventh-year Mariner is his health and ability to deal with his condition.

"I'm feeling good," he said. "It's not easy, but I know what my body needs to do now."

The Mariners have toyed with the idea of seeing if Gutierrez can play center field in a back-up role, but for now they've played him in right field and at designated hitter. Manager Scott Servais wants that veteran bat available in a platoon role with Seth Smith or as a quality right-handed option off the bench for the long term.

Gutierrez's solo homer

"The most important thing is making sure Guti is in a good spot, health-wise, and that we can utilize him for the whole year," Servais said. "We face a lot of left-handed pitching."

Worth Noting

• The Mariners have lined up their starting pitching for the next stretch of games. It'll be James Paxton vs. the D-backs on Monday, Nathan Karns at the Indians on Tuesday, Taijuan Walker vs. the Royals on Wednesday and Wade Miley vs. the Cubs on Thursday. Felix Hernandez's first start isn't scheduled until Monday, March 14 against the Rockies in Peoria.

• Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush is being brought along slowly after missing the last three months of 2015 with shoulder problems, but Servais said he's had no setbacks and is feeling strong. Furbush will throw in a simulated game on Monday before a decision is made on when he'll advance to Cactus League action.

• The club is also being extra-cautious with lefty Danny Hultzen due to his long history of shoulder problems. Servais said Hultzen felt a little sore, as expected, after a Saturday live batting practice session and there's no set time on when he'll throw in a game yet.

Mike Montgomery will pitch in a game soon after having a cyst surgically removed from his neck last week. The left-hander is out of Minor League options and the Mariners will be facing a roster decision with him when the cut is made to 25 at the end of the month.

"Health-wise, obviously, the issue he had wasn't related to his arm at all," Servais said. "It's just a matter of getting him comfortable and getting him out there. We need to see him. It's a big spring for Mike and he knows that. We need to see him in game action."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.