The Indians and their fans have to be wondering how in the world they let Franklin Gutierrez get away. No question he’s an emerging star, and the emergence is happening fast. If Gutierrez can hit anywhere close to the way he has the past month, with his defense, he’s an All-Star caliber player.
After the Mariners’ 3-1 win on Saturday, Jarrod Washburn noted that Gutierrez seems to save his greatest plays for when he’s on the mound.
“I told him after the first inning (when Gutierrez robbed Asdrubal Cabrera of extra I’m going to make you a star. Every time I pitch, the guy makes an awesome play behind me. He makes them every day, it seems. He really does some special things when I’m on the mound. Him and Darin Erstad are the two best I’ve ever played with. Both will run into the wall for you and dive and make every play, it seems. It’s comforting to know on the mound you have a guy like that behind you. He’s awesome. I love the guy.”
Manager Don Wakamatsu also used the occasion to rave about Gutierrez, who also had the big hit in the game, a two-run homer in the fourth.
“To watch him over the last couple years, and to see him blossom…Obviously we knew he could play defense, we knew he had power in the bat. It’s real special when a guy can stay on an off-speed pitch and drive it out of the ball park the other way. That’s where you start to become a complete player.
“One of the balls he hit in San Diego he pulled and he hit the other one to center. When a guy builds confidence he can start to use all parts of the field, you start to get in a whole different category as a player.”
Wakamatsu noted that Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore also has made some outstanding plays in this series.
“I think you saw two of the best centerfielders in the game. It’s pretty impressive ot watch from both sides. The thing the fans need to watch is when that ball is hit and how fast he (Gutierrez) gets off initially. A lot of guys can catch it; he seems to have a feel for where that ball is going to end up and he glides so well. You watch him during batting practice, he works on every single pitch, and that’s a credit to him.”
Gutierrez said he wasn’t using the trade from Cleveland as motivation.
“I don’t think like that,” he said. “I treat them like any other team. I represent the Seattle Mariners now. This is baseball. Someday you’re here and someday your in another place, and you have to do your job. And I try to do mine. Some people think it’s great to do against your old team. But for me its like any other team.”
Gutierrez now relishes the trade that brought him to the Mariners, where he is getting his first opportunity to play every day as a center fielder.
“I think I’m in a great moment. They gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues. But I came up as a right fielder and I never played that position before. I got traded and I think it was very good for me. I come here to play center field every day. I feel more comfortable, and I’m doing my job. I’m having my fun.”
One worrisome note. Jose Lopez came out of the game in the ninth because he fouled a ball off his foot, and his right shoulder was feeling tight after an awkward relay on a double-play attempt.
“He had to get out of the way and throw at the last minute,” Wakamatsu said. “Hopefully, he’ll be fine tomorrow.”
Here’s what Rob Johnson said about the play at the plate in the seventh, in which Victor Martinez was ruled safe, even though the replay appeared to show Johnson getting the tag down in time.
“In my mind, I thought I had him,” Johnson said. “Obviously, it was a close play, a bang-bang play. I could have maybe taken the plate away a little bit more, but the throw was right on line…He said I put the tag up high, but I thought I got him.”
Washburn, by the way, didn’t feel he had great command tonight. Yet he would have had a seven-inning shutout had the call gone the Mariners’ way.
“I wasn’t sharp at all,” he said. “I don’t know how many spots I hit all night, but it wasn’t many. The guys played good defense behind me. I had good life on the fastball, even though I wasn’t hitting spots with it. I didn’t square too many up.
There was a lot of fly balls tonight. My sinker wasn’t sinking as well. I wasn’t locating very good. It worked. We won. You go into a game and find out as the game progresses what you have that day and try to make it work.”