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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

May 3, 2011 at 8:15 AM

Mariners could look a whole lot better with a healthy Franklin Gutierrez

Don’t forget that we’ll have my Talkin’ Baseball segment coming up on KJR AM 950’s Mitch in the Morning show at 8:20 a.m. or parts thereof
Franklin Gutierrez finally made his long-awaited rehabilatation start last night, going 1-for-4 with a triple and a run scored for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers. Gutierrez was sidelined for most of the spring training schedule and missed the entire month of April while recovering from what has now been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome.
Let’s cross our fingers and hope that Gutierrez can keep on playing.
Yes, it took a long time for doctors to make this diagnosis of what is actually a pretty common condition. What some of you have suggested is true: it’s a diagnosis sometimes made in cases where folks can’t pinpoint 100 percent what is wrong and need a blanket term to cover it. I don’t know that this is the case here, but it sure took a long time to get to where we are, so let’s hope for the best.
No, I’m not faulting the medical staff. Anyone with relatives who suffer from stomach conditions knows it can often take years for a correct diagnosis. I would have liked to see the Mariners get on this a little quicker, rather than waiting until spring training to run the full gamut of tests. We reported back in November that Gutierrez had gone to doctors in Venezuela for testing after experiencing further discomfort. I’m sure if the M’s knew then what they know now, he’d have been hauled up to Seattle for the full medical assault right away at that point.
Anyhow, not much we can do about it now.
But yes, this team needs Gutierrez back in center field. When you look at what the M’s managed to do on the last road trip, going 5-1 in Detroit and Boston, it makes you wonder how they could have fared throughout April with Gutierrez back and doing what he does best.
This team instead played short-handed much of April, not just with Gutierrez missing, but with Justin Smoak out for a week as well, going back to South Carolina for his father’s funeral. You can read my story on Smoak and his father in today’s paper.
Back to Gutierrez, the outfield has not looked the same without him.

The latest Ultimate Zone Ratings (UZR) numbers are out and though some of you don’t like the limited samples, they’re the best we have at figuring out what’s gone on with the team’s defense. I happen to think they’ve done a good job portraying what I’ve seen defensively in the 21 out of 29 games I’ve covered.
The Mariners have actually moved up defensively and are now just the second-worst UZR team in baseball, ahead of the Houston Astros.
But overall, still not what they want.
Some of you have felt Michael Saunders is looking better in center lately, and the latest UZR numbers support that, showing him at +1.6.
The rest of the outfeld remains a mess.
Ryan Langerhans is at minus-5.7 in center, Milton Bradley is at minus-4.6 in left and Ichiro is at minus-3.6 in right.
It’s the left field situation that worries the most. I’d much rather see Saunders and Langerhans splitting time defensively there. With Gutierrez in center, that becomes possible and I’m sure it also helps Ichiro out big-time in right because of all the ground he won’t have to cover in right center.
And then, there’s the bat.
The Mariners could use more balance in their lineup and Gutierrez’s right-handed bat can help the offense. Not if he’s feeling poorly, as was the case for much of last year. But if he’s healthy again.
Right now, you’ve got a bunch of left-handed sticks in there, but the right side is rather limited. Besides Miguel Olivo your options are thin.
So, cross your fingers and hope Gutierrez gets back soon. If he does, it will be the equivalent of this team pulling off an early-season trade. And a good one at that.



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