In an unfortunate twist of events, the Mariners will be without their Gold Glove center fielder to kick off the 2011 season. As if the Mariners needed enough question marks to begin the season, Franklin Gutierrez will now be joining David Aardsma, Shawn Kelley, and others on the 15-day disabled list.
A few weeks ago, the situation with Gutierrez was hardly an issue. In fact, doctors had indicated that Guti' was suffering from a “slow digestive tract,” and that he was headed towards treatment.
But here we are counting the days before Opening Day, and Guti' is feeling no better. Through extensive testing, results remain uncertain as the cause can’t be identified. Until the culprit can be definitively pinpointed, he will be missing games.
The bad news is that the center fielder has had these stomach problems for over a year now. With substantial weight loss and exhaustion resulting from the condition plaguing Gutierrez, his 2010 season was a poor showing, batting just .245 with 12 home runs.
Hopefully, the issue will be quickly identified, and he will be coming off the disabled list at the earliest date (April 6th). But given the fact that the ailment has been affecting Guti' for quite some time now, those chances are slim. However, it should be noted that on Wednesday, he began to feel a bit better after being given antibiotics.
But now, the attention turns to replacing Gutierrez’s spot in center field and in the lineup. What will likely take place will be a combination of Michael Saunders and Ryan Langerhans. Saunders was originally penciled in as the left fielder, so Milton Bradley will be covering for him.
We probably won’t be seeing that much of Langerhans—he’s a backup at best and his production has been sporadic to say the least.
Saunders has some people excited though, with his recent change in batting stance. Slaving over the offseason, he developed an approach that essentially keeps his hands back further and delays swinging until the last moment. So far in spring training, it has been paying dividends.
“He’s been doing better, he’s been staying in at bats longer, he’s doing a better job of getting hitter’s counts, and the hanging breaking ball—he’s doing what you’d like to see him do with it,” remarked Manager Eric Wedge on Saunders' new stance in an interview with the Seattle Time's Geoff Baker.
“I think he’s getting more and more comfortable with his new approach, and I think that the more he continues to play and get comfortable with it, the better the results will be. ”
So until doctors can figure out what’s wrong with Gutierrez, it’ll be up to the other outfielders to step up and fill the void left by a Gold Glover.