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Originally published May 18, 2013 at 4:19 PM | Page modified May 18, 2013 at 5:29 PM

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Michael Saunders could see plenty of time with Franklin Gutierrez recovering

Michael Saunders got a well-earned day off on Saturday as the Mariners keep him fresh for what could be an extended stint playing center field.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Michael Saunders should be the starter now plain and simple. The guy proved himself... MORE
It's only a conversation because of Gutierrez's high salary. Gutierrez is done. Doubt... MORE
This way of thinking just makes no sense. Its just more Wedge BS. Now he has Saunders... MORE

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CLEVELAND — Michael Saunders got a well-earned day off on Saturday as the Mariners keep him fresh for what could be an extended stint playing center field.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge said it's no fluke that Franklin Gutierrez had been scheduled to play right field in his injury rehabilitation stint with Class AAA Tacoma on Friday night. Wedge says Gutierrez has to show he can play every day and stay healthy enough to return to the level he has displayed in prior years before the team puts him back in center on a regular basis.

"We want him to play some right field as well as center field for a couple of reasons," Wedge said. "One, I think it's easier to stay healthy if you're playing left field or right field versus center field. Two, Saunders has been great in center field.

"And three, if he's not 100 percent, then we're better off with him in right field. Now, if he's the Guti of old, 100 percent, then of course you want him in center field. But he just hasn't proven that he can do that. So, we're going to give him some time down there to work things out."

Wedge pointed out that the other reason the team needs to be able to count on Gutierrez staying healthy is that the club will likely lose a player when he is activated off the DL. Wedge reiterated Saturday that there is no way the team will carry six outfielders and while Wedge wouldn't name names, it's becoming clear that Endy Chavez would be the odd man out in that equation.

The Mariners recently signed center fielder Corey Patterson to a minor-league deal and he would be the team's emergency insurance at the position in the event Chavez is designated for assignment and can't clear waivers. Wedge said Saturday he'd be OK with carrying just Saunders and a healthy Gutierrez as his only center fielders at the big-league level.

"Yeah, I'm comfortable with that," he said. "I mean, those are two fine options for us. So, I'm comfortable with that. Now, if something happens, then you might get a little bit thin. But again, you can't cover everything. You know? You try to hedge your bets as best you can and go from there."

Notes

• New bullpen addition Danny Farquhar retired all eight batters he faced in his Mariners debut on Saturday after replacing starter Joe Saunders with two on and one out in the sixth inning.

Farquhar had five strikeouts and gave the Mariners a shot at a late-game comeback. He used a mid-90s fastball and cutter to get ahead in counts, mixing in a couple of curveballs as well.

"Getting ahead of hitters ... it's crucial," he said. "It's crazy how much easier it is to pitch when you're ahead of guys as opposed to behind them. You're more relaxed. Those two-strike pitches, you can just throw as hard as you can to your spot."

Michael Morse was back in the lineup Saturday, one day after sitting out a game when he accidentally scratched his cornea while removing a contact lens.

• The Mariners will see whether Aaron Harang throws a scheduled bullpen session on Sunday before deciding whether to keep him as a starter for Tuesday's game in Anaheim. Harang missed his previous scheduled start with lower-back stiffness and will again be replaced by Hector Noesi if he can't go.

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