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Gutierrez injury hurts Mariners in many ways

Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez bunts during spring training in Arizona last month.
Charlie Riedel
AP Photo
Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez bunts during spring training in Arizona last month.

"A strange episode of normalcy."

That's how KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel describes what caused the injury to Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. It happened during a routine throw at spring training.

Gutierrez is out for at least a month - maybe longer - with a partially torn pectoral muscle. Art says it's just the latest piece of negative news for the Mariners, as the team begins its 2012 exhibition season Friday.

Guti was expected to start season with a bang

After two bad seasons, Art says Gutierrez was poised to make a comeback this year.

"Gutierrez had missed big chunks of the previous two seasons - and under performed in those two seasons - because of a digestive problem they finally diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. (This season) he looked fit, he was ready, everyone was excited. The Mariners thought they had this situation resolved in center field. Now, they have to come up with plan B."

'Plan B' could involve Chone Figgins

Amid all the controversy surrounding the well-paid but underperforming Chone Figgins, there's word that he could replace Gutierrez.

Art says Figgins played center field quite well for the Angels from 2003-2006. His best attribute is that he's fast. But Art says he did not perform well at the plate last season.

"I think Mariner fans are cringing over the prospect of Figgins repeating that offensive season, even if he is a pretty good defender. But that remains to be seen."

Art says another option is to move Ichiro Suzuki from right field to center field - a prospect that doesn't thrill Ichiro, especially since he's already moved down in the batting order from first to third.

Other options include moving one of the team's two left fielders, Mike Carp or Casper Wells, to center. Or putting Michael Saunders in. Art says he'd be good in center field, but his hitting is lacking.

Art says the decision about who replaces Gutierrez is a critical one because "center field is where you want your best defender."

More bad Mariner mojo

The injury to Gutierrez just as the Mariners begin their exhibition season is the latest blow to the team. They're still dealing with last fall's murder of outfielder Greg Halman in his native Netherlands, allegedly at the hands of his brother.

Art says Halman would have definitely been in the running to replace Gutierrez.

"The tragedy of his death is still reverberating around the organization. He would've been a viable candidate for this. And so the Mariners just can't catch a break."

You can read more about Gutierrez's injury and the Mariners' options at Sportspress Northwest.




Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.