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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

February 22, 2012 at 9:23 AM

Mariners hope healthy Gutierrez is poised for bounce-back year


(Photo by Associated Press)

The Mariners have added another B game: March 5 vs. Cincinnati, in Goodyear, 10 AM

For those planning to come to Peoria, here is their supplemental schedule:


Feb. 24 12:45

Feb. 26 12:45

Feb. 28 12:45

Feb. 29


March 5 at Cincy 10 AM

March 8 at Colorado 10 AM


March 16 vs. Milw AT Tucson 1 pm


The Mariners have a potentially exciting new player in camp, and his name might ring a bell.

Franklin Gutierrez.

New, because he barely resembles the guy by that name who wore his uniform last year. That guy was scrawny, had no energy, and was barely a shadow of the Guti who in 2009 looked like one of the rising stars in the American League.

The Mariners desperately hope that the return to health of Gutierrez will be accompanied by a return to form. The M’s production last year from the center-field spot was by far the worst in baseball, which is hardly a shocker – their production at most positions was the worst in baseball. But CF was particularly PU: As a group, M’s center fielders hit just .200, with a .256 on-base percentage and .274 slugging percentage. They had seven homers and 39 RBI, with 48 runs scored. Toronto, the next-worst team, had an OPS 66 points higher from Seattle’s center fielders, and the Dodgers at the top of MLB were a ridiculous 429 points higher than the Mariners.

No one is expecting Franklin Gutierrez to turn into Matt Kemp, but in the context of overall improvement in the Mariners’ offense, center field could be a key component in making that happen. It’s still early, but Gutierrez has been a revelation so far. Way back at the media luncheon in January we started to hear whispers of the new-look Gutierrez, and sure enough, it’s true. Whereas last year Gutierrez was almost scarily skinny, now he is solid and muscular again. As Mike Carp said, “Guti is a completely different person. He’s more the guy I saw a couple of years ago.”

That was before his career was derailed by persistent stomach issues, starting midway through the 2010 season, that confounded doctors for a long time before he was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome early last season. But even then, it took awhile before he figured out how to manage the condition, and by then, 2011 was a long lost season. Gutierrez hit just .224 in 92 games, but it was an exceedingly weak .224, including just one homer, and a .273 slugging percentage.

But as the season progressed, Gutierrez learned, through trial and error, what he could eat and couldn’t eat – and when he could eat. Late-night snacks, for the most part, were out. Doctors settled on effective meds. And by the offseason, Gutierrez was feeling pretty good again – good enough to work out intensively all winter. He left for home weighing 183 at the end of last season, and returned this month at 200 – a muscular 200.

He’s basically normal,” trainer Rick Griffin said. “The thing last year, he came into camp and he was unable to work out the entire winter. He was always sick, he didn’t feel good. He couldn’t lift weights. He didn’t have any energy or stamina. This winter he went home, he was healthy, and he was able to do all of his conditioning and all of his work.”

I talked to Gutierrez yesterday for a column that will run tomorrow. He’s enthused about the transformation he’s made health-wise. I know people get weary of hearing about players coming to spring camp “in the best shape of their life,” but in Gutierrez’s case, it’s a legitimate topic, because he was truly ill the last couple of years.

“It was everything,” he said. “I didn’t have the energy to play you normally have, the energy to play in the outfield and hitting. It was obvious, how skinny I was. I was battling. I missed spring training, the first two or three months of the season. I tried to get back, tried to help the team, but I couldn’t do it because of my health issues. It was tough. I was trying to do my best, but obviously, I couldn’t do it. ”

And now? “I feel great. It’s going to be a new year, and I’m prepared for it. I feel completely different. I feel strong now. I feel I’m back to me again. Power line drives. Sometimes if I catch it good, I can hit it out. I’m back to me, man. I’m just really happy.”



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