BY John Hickey 02:30PM 04/13/2011

Gutierrez ready for rehab assignment

Good luck charm center fielder could be back in the lineup early next week after going out on a rehabilitation assignment.

His stomach issues behind him, Franklin Gutierrez could return to the Mariners after stint with Tacoma. / Getty Images

Is there any correlation to the Mariners having won two games in a row at about the same time center fielder Franklin Gutierrez has returned to the team?

You could make an argument that since Gutierrez is still on the disabled list, there is no correlation at all.

On the other hand, having Gutierrez with his big smile and happy-to-be-here disposition around may have served as a tonic for Mariner players dragged down by the seven consecutive losses that preceded the consecutive wins over Toronto.

And it seems now that the Mariners may be close to getting Gutierrez back in the lineup and not just in the clubhouse.

His stomach problems under control if not solved, Gutierrez played in a simulated game thrown by disabled closer David Aardsma Tuesday, worked out Wednesday and will work out again Thursday. On Friday he starts an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Tacoma.

After that? Well, when the Mariners return home Monday from a four-game road stop in Kansas City that begins Thursday, Gutierrez could be ready to go.

The Mariners aren’t willing to say for sure that Gutierrez will be back, but manager Eric Wedge said before Wednesday’s series finale against the Blue Jays that Gutierrez’s status would be evaluated Monday after the center fielder had a chance to play in three games with the Rainiers.

“It’s nice to see him moving around against Aardsma in a simulated game,’’ Wedge said. “He’s moving around like Guti does in center field; that was good to see. And he’s getting some BP.

“He’s looking pretty good. He had a good work day today. He’ll come in tomorrow and work again. If all goes well, we’ll shoot for Friday in Tacoma.’’

NOTES: Chone Figgins played a little catch before the game, but that wasn’t enough to get back into the lineup. He’s missed two starts after taking a hard grounder off his left thumb and wrist, but Wedge seems confident his time on the sidelines will be brief. “I’m optimistic that he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow,’’ the manager said. … Aardsma said Wednesday he was feeling fine after having thrown a 28-pitch simulated game Tuesday. He’ll get another simulated game Friday in Kansas City, after which he’ll probably go out on an injury rehabilitation assignment to one of Seattle’s minor league clubs. … Wedge had a nice comeback Wednesday morning when asked about rookie starter Michael Pineda’s poise in his first couple of big league starts. “That’s one of the reasons we brought him,’’ Wedge said. “That, and a 97-mph fastball.”

Twitter: @JHickey3


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