BY John Hickey 04:59PM 03/01/2011

Bradley, Baron leave the Mariners smiling

It’s also a big day for Franklin Gutierrez, who is feeling “great,” and for pitcher Nate Robertson, who is trying to make the opening day roster.

Milton Bradley - Seattle Mariners - 2010- 3

Milton Bradley had three hits and two RBIs in 5-4 win over Texas Tuesday / Ben Van Houten, Mariners

PEORIA, AZ – In the competition for biggest smile of the day in Mariner camp Tuesday, the clear winner was Milton Bradley, the owner of three hits and two RBIs in Seattle’s 5-4 win over Texas.

That was until the eighth inning, when 19-year-old rookie catcher Steven Baron homered in his first at-bat in a spring training camp to pull into a dead heat.

And a close third was center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who was in the lineup for the first time this spring after having another bout with the stomach problems that have pained him since early last season.

Bradley singled twice and doubled, one of his singles coming after Ichiro Suzuki stole second base in the third inning. Bradley’s hit there tied the game. His two-out double in the fifth scored Chone Figgins, and Seattle never again trailed.

“It was a good day to play baseball,’’ Bradley said after the Mariners moved to 2-0-1 in the Cactus League. It was a good day to have a good day, the temperature moving into the 70s for the first time in a while. “It’s nice to have some at-bats like today.’’

The Mariners had 11 hits in all, none of which proved to be bigger than Baron’s. He came up with one out in the eighth and hit a 2-1 pitch for a rocket over the left-field wall. At the time it seemed like luxury to have a three-run lead. It proved to be a necessity because Texas put together two runs in the ninth off Denny Bautista, but the lead held.

“It was good for him; he was wearing a huge smile,’’ manager Eric Wedge said. “We were all excited for him.’’

And the Mariners were more than a little excited for Gutierrez, if only because he was back on the field again after spending the end of last week in Seattle getting tested so the medics can pinpoint the problem with his stomach.

“I felt great,’’ Gutierrez said after playing six innings. “Now, I’m a little tired.’’

Then he broke into a big smile.

“In fact, I’m exhausted,’’ he said through his grin.

Just as happy, if not as outwardly demonstrative, was left-handed pitcher Nate Robertson. The 33-year-old veteran has probably gotten less ink – we should probably call it something else since the actual use of ink is fading into history – this spring than he has.

Robertson, who comes into the competition for a job on the staff with 187 career starts, started Tuesday. He threw a couple of shutout innings and now he tries to convert his experience – experience that most of his competition lacks – into gainful employment.

Even though he’s 20 games under .500 for his career (57-77), Robertson could find a way to be a contributor in Seattle in 2011 if he has a good spring. Tuesday was a good first step – two innings, three hits, no runs and three strikeouts.

He’s had trouble with men on base in the past, one reason he was in four different organizations last year, but showed no such trouble in his debut with the Mariners.

“I’ve been warned about the ground balls here that can take some interesting hops (on the hard dirt and grass),’’ Robertson said, “but it’s good to get into those situations and get right into it out of the chute. I worked out of the windup, felt comfortable out of the stretch and with situational stuff going on, so it was good.’’

Robertson is something of a long-shot to make the staff, much less the rotation, but that’s not to say he doesn’t have a very clear idea of just what he needs to get done this month to make sure he’s with Seattle next month.

The 33-year-old needs to find the form he had when he first made a name for himself with the Tigers in 2004 (12-10 in 32 starts, finishing just short of 200 innings).

“I think clearly the past couple years I haven’t pitched as well as when I’ve been in my best form,’’ Robertson said. “So I think they’ve got to see something like they’ve seen in the past there instead of what they’ve seen in the last couple years.

“There have been times I’ve been able to go out and throw a really quality game and then you turn right back around and I didn’t have the consistency people want to see at the big league level. So I just think going out there and throwing some consistent baseball and obviously being healthy.’’

He had a surgery to have a mass removed from his left elbow in 2009, and he said it’s only now that his arm is starting to fully come around.

NOTES: Felix Hernandez will see his first game action of the spring Thursday. He pitch in a simulated game. … Although the Mariners had 11 hits Tuesday, Bradley was the only hitter with more than one. … After Blake Beavan gave up two runs in the third inning, he pitched a scoreless fourth, and relievers Josh Lueke, Royce Ring, Dan Cortes and Favio Castro each threw one scoreless frame. Lueke got credit for the win and Bautista was credited with the save.


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