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Gutierrez finds potential home in leadoff spot

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Even though center fielder Franklin Gutierrez has been hitting with considerable power this spring, Mariners manager Eric Wedge continues to work him largely in a leadoff role as he looks at different lineup combinations.

Gutierrez has led off several times this spring, but Wednesday was the first time he filled that position when Dustin Ackley was also in the lineup. Ackley batted second in the 7-6 loss to the Brewers, and both he and Gutierrez went 1-for-3.

Gutierrez doubled and scored in the fifth inning as he improved his batting average to .313 (5-for-16) in six games, with each of his hits going for extra bases with three home runs and two doubles.

The 30-year-old also made a nice catch in the top of the fifth, running down a line drive in the gap to rob Khris Davis of a likely double. After two injury-plagued years, the 2010 Gold Glove winner has looked like the old Guti.

"That's what everybody wants and what I want, so I'm happy for that," Gutierrez said.

As for leading off, Gutierrez has filled that role in just 16 of the 633 Major League games he's started in his career, but he's open to the challenge.

"I've led off in the past, so it's nothing new for me," Gutierrez said. "Obviously if you lead off, you need to see some pitches and you take more at-bats in the game. Those are important at-bats. I'm not a fast guy, but I can get more fastballs to hit there."

Wedge hasn't settled on anything yet, but definitely seems intrigued by the idea of Gutierrez hitting ahead of Ackley.

"We've been looking at that," Wedge said. "We've been looking at multiple people up top, but obviously the veteran presence of Gutierrez up there and the way he sees pitches and the way he's been hitting the ball, all those things are positives for us.

"Ackley has also looked good and I feel like he's using the field better this year, his direction is better and his legs are underneath him more," said Wedge. "And he sees a lot of pitches as well."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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