What's wrong with Franklin Gutierrez? Mariners' mystery deepens
One week until their season opener, the Mariners still don't have a handle on center fielder Franklin Gutierrez's ongoing stomach woes. That uncertainty has left the...
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — One week until their season opener, the Mariners still don't have a handle on center fielder Franklin Gutierrez's ongoing stomach woes.
That uncertainty has left the major-league roster "up in the air" for now, according to general manager Jack Zduriencik. The Mariners have done further testing on Gutierrez and hope to have answers in the next day or two.
For now, the possibility exists that Gutierrez will have to open the season on the 15-day disabled list, causing a ripple effect throughout the roster.
"We're hoping to get some answers shortly," Zduriencik said. "But you have to keep your other options open, frankly, because he (Gutierrez) hasn't played a whole lot and he isn't feeling all that good. So, right now, it's all up in the air."
The Mariners say they've yet to decide whether to put Gutierrez on the DL. But with just nine Cactus League games this spring, manager Eric Wedge acknowledged that time is running out for Gutierrez to make it back on the field.
"We're rapidly approaching it, let's put it that way," Wedge said of the cutoff date for Gutierrez. "I'm not ready to give into it just yet, but we're getting there pretty quick."
If Gutierrez goes on the DL, Michael Saunders could make the opening-day roster. Saunders appeared targeted for Class AAA after a slow spring and the decision midway through camp to revamp his batting stance.
But Saunders' ability to play center field gives the Mariners some options other than Ryan Langerhans, who is not considered an everyday player. The Mariners also need someone to give left fielder Milton Bradley a day or two off per week, so another outfielder besides Langerhans would be required.
Saunders hit a two-run homer and a double Thursday while playing center field for all nine innings of his team's 9-8 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Peoria Stadium.
Saunders, 23, who still has minor-league options left, said he is growing more familiar with his new batting stance. It involves keeping his hands further back and not committing to swing until the last moment.
That delayed approach is expected to help him reach more pitches on the outer half of the plate, where pitchers have tormented the left-handed hitter in two partial big-league seasons. The double by Saunders during a four-run third by the Mariners came against left-hander Bruce Chen on a pitch breaking outside.
Saunders was able to take the ball the other way to left-center field. The home run came on a hanging curve in the ninth, with Saunders waiting until the final moment before swinging with a short, powerful stroke.
"It's definitely helped me go the other way," Saunders said. "My approach is up the middle, other way now. It's helped me stay back instead of lunging toward the ball now. I'm excited. I feel like I've had some early success with it."
News of Gutierrez's latest struggle with stomach problems came as a surprise. The Mariners had said just a few weeks ago that they were confident they'd pinpointed the issue as a slow digestive tract and were on the right treatment path.
But Zduriencik said the team is holding Gutierrez out until it can get new answers. It could simply mean coming up with a different treatment — or, perhaps, another diagnosis of what keeps plaguing the center fielder.
"He can play if we needed him to, he's just not feeling too great," Zduriencik said.
And the Mariners, counting on Gutierrez to help improve the worst scoring offense in the majors, won't feel better until they figure out what's ailing him.
• RHP Doug Fister tossed four scoreless innings to start Thursday's game against Kansas City, but then gave up a run-scoring double in the fifth and a pair of two-run homers and another RBI double in the sixth. Fister left trailing 6-4 in a 96-pitch outing that was his longest of the spring.
• Royce Ring, a strong bet to make the bullpen as a nonroster player, retired his first two batters of the seventh, then issued a walk and yielded a two-run homer to Melky Cabrera.
• Mariners closer Brandon League pitched the ninth, giving up a run on three hits.
• Miguel Olivo, recovering from a groin strain, went 1 for 4 in a minor-league game in Surprise, Ariz. Olivo was a DH during the game after catching three innings the previous game.
• A's RHP Trevor Cahill was named opening-night starter against the Mariners on April 1 in Oakland. Cahill was 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA during an All-Star season last year.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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