Gutierrez gets a breather

The Mariners replaced a .196 hitter with a .313 hitter for tonight’s game against the Angels.

In is Wladimir Balentien, playing left field, and out is Franklin Gutierrez.

“(Gutierrez) has been battling a little eye infection and he’s on the downside of that,” manager Don Wakamatsu said during his pre-game media session. “But it’s a good time to give him a little break.”

Gutierrez, acquired from the Indians in the three-team, 12-player trade last December, has been solid on defense, but has struggled on offense.

“He’s a guy who undetrstands that there are some mechanical things he must adjust,” Wakamamatsu said. “Alan (hitting coach Alan Cockrell) has had good talks with him.”

Wakamatsu senses that Gutierrez wanted to get off to such a good start in his first season with the Mariners that he might be putting too much pressure on himself.

“He’s a big part of this club and saw him do some things in Spring Training, if he hits the ball to right-center,” the manager added.

Endy Chavez moved from left field to center field, but look for Gutierrez to return to the lineup in Sunday’s series finale.

Wakamatsu said the general health of the team is improving.

Ronny Cedeno has a sore right hamstring and is day-to-day, but Mike Sweeney (back) and Russell Branyan (back) are good to go.

“Russell came out of (Friday night’s game) real good,” Wakamatsu said. “There was a little scare on the slide at home (scoring on a wild pitch in the fifth inning), but he Said he didn’t feel it. It’s good having Russell back in the lineup and have him start out with a home run. It takes some of the pressure off other guys.”

Ken Griffey Jr. has yet to get into one of his hot streaks. He went into Saturday night’s game batting .196 with two home runs and two RBIs.

“I think he is still kind of searching for his mechanics,” Wakamatsu said. “It will take a little time.”

With an 11-6 record and leading the AL West, the Mariners brass can be a little more patient with some of their struggling hitters. Adrian Beltre (.169) and Jose Lopez (.236) are not hitting the way they can.

The stars come out in Anaheim. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart had a large group of kids behind the batting cage watching BP. Singer Nick Lachey, part-owner of the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, was on the field, and so was former Mariners pitcher Dennis Powell, a former teammate of Ken Griffey Jr.

Tonight’s Mariners lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF.
2. Chavez, CF.
3. Griffey, DH.
4. Beltre, 3B.
5. Branyan, 1B.
6. Lopez, 2B.
7. Balentien, LF.
8. Rob Johnson, C.
9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS.
P. RH Carlos Silva.

— Jim Street

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