MONDAY: Seattle’s Gutierrez homers off Bailey in 9th
PHOENIX (AP) – Oakland closer Andrew Bailey had only one goal in mind when he returned to the mound Monday for the first time in two weeks: stay healthy.
That’s why the AL rookie of the year, who has been slowed by elbow soreness much of the spring, was in a surprisingly good mood even after giving up a home run in the ninth inning to Franklin Gutierrez that gave the Seattle Mariners a 3-2 win.
“I was just trying to establish my fastball and get my feel back on the mound,” Bailey said. “That’s my fifth appearance and we can go from that. There’s still some time to get used to game action again, but definitely I’ll be ready for opening day.”
Bailey, who hadn’t pitched since March 14, retired the first batter he faced before Gutierrez’s shot sailed over the fence beyond the glove of leaping center fielder Eric Patterson. Patterson appeared to catch the ball but came down with an empty glove and shook his head in frustration.
The A’s received encouraging news on setup men Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz. Breslow, who had been out for two weeks with shoulder tendinitis, gave up a home run to Seattle’s Josh Bard but was otherwise solid while Wuertz was diagnosed with rotator cuff tendinitis and won’t do any throwing for five days after team officials were initially concerned his situation might be worse.
The biggest issue, though, was Bailey.
Oakland’s All-Star reliever made four scoreless appearances early in the spring before lingering soreness in his pitching elbow forced the team to shut him down in mid-March.
“He pitched, he had good velocity and he came out healthy,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “Then after the homer he used all his pitches, which before he was a little tentative and just sticking with the fastball.”
Josh Bard also homered and Rob Johnson doubled and scored on a wild pitch for Seattle.
Left-hander Jason Vargas scattered four hits over five innings for the Mariners. He walked four and gave up two runs, including Coco Crisp’s homer.
Vargas, who had not given up a run in four of his previous five appearances this spring, also gave up an RBI double to Kevin Kouzmanoff. The four walks were a spring high for Vargas, who had been Seattle’s most consistent starter outside of ace Felix Hernandez.
“Vargas did OK,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I didn’t think he was quite as sharp as he was the last time. The only concern was the four walks with two outs.”
A’s starter Gio Gonzalez, battling for the fifth spot in Oakland’s rotation, improved his stock with six-plus solid innings despite having a migraine headache early that caused a brief delay in the first inning while the left-hander was checked out by Geren and a team trainer.
Gonzalez was given two aspirin and a cup of water while on the mound then returned to complete his strongest outing of the spring.
“My right eye just started closing on me. It was like an explosion in my brain,” Gonzalez said. “After that, it took away the migraine and started throwing strikes.”
Gutierrez hit his third homer of the spring while batting third in Seattle’s lineup, something Wakamatsu plans to do more in the regular season. Gutierrez spent the majority of the final four months of the 2009 season hitting second or fifth in the Mariners’ order.
“We’re going to continue to go down that road,” Wakamatsu said. “We’ve talked about both him and (Casey) Kotchman. We feel good about it.”
Notes: DH Ken Griffey Jr. played in a Cactus League game away from Peoria for the first time since he returned to the Mariners before last season – and for as long as anyone around the team can remember from his previous stint in Seattle from 1989-99. “His (road) pants came in. We had to ship them in from Oakland to here,” Wakamatsu joked. The real reason: Wakamatsu didn’t want Griffey to go consecutive days without playing, with Seattle off Tuesday. … Mariners LHP Cliff Lee said Major League Baseball postponed his hearing to appeal his five-game suspension for throwing over the head of Arizona’s Chris Snyder, and he doesn’t know when it will happen.