Guti describes medical issue as he returns again
The on-again, off-again career of Franklin Gutierrez was back on again Monday as the Mariners recalled the veteran outfielder from his latest rehabilitation assignment in Triple-A Tacoma and placed him immediately in the lineup for the series opener against the Rangers.
Gutierrez, 30, has played just 150 of the Mariners’ 453 games over the past three years due to a variety of disabilities. The Venezuelan native said Monday he’s been diagnosed with an inflammatory condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which he’s been receiving medicine for over the past three months.
“It’s something genetic,” Gutierrez said. “I started dealing with this the last couple years, starting with my stomach and some other things. It’s been happening for three years now. I think it’s all connected. So I’m glad that finally they found out what was going on with me, because I didn’t know what was happening and it was tough for me to play like that.”
Gutierrez hit .267 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in 18 games for the Mariners this season. He’s batted .211 in 47 games during several rehab stints with Tacoma to deal with hamstring issues, including just .179 (7-for-39) over his last 10 games. But the Mariners want to give him another shot and are hopeful his right-handed bat can help as they line up against left-handed starters the next three games.
The Mariners designated starting pitcher Aaron Harang for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster. They’ll need to add another pitcher to their rotation by Friday in Houston, but for now are going with six outfielders.
“It’s a bit of a traffic jam, but it’s a good problem to have,” manager Eric Wedge said of his congested outfield. “We’ll continue to try and put the best lineup out there. The last couple days we’ve struggled a bit offensively, so hopefully a little bit different look in the lineup helps us out a little bit; getting Gutierrez back in there helps us out a little bit. We’ll see what happens.”
Wedge immediately inserted Gutierrez into the third spot in the order and flip-flopped Nos. 1 and 2 hitters Brad Miller and Nick Franklin, wanting to put the lefty Miller between the switch-hitting Franklin and right-handed Gutierrez.
Gutierrez will play right field, which Wedge hopes puts less pressure on him physically than his normal center field. Gutierrez was an American League Gold Glove winner in center field in 2010, but hasn’t played consistently since.
“It’s not much different,” Gutierrez said of his right-field role. “I’ve played there before in Cleveland. It is what it is right now. I’m trying to get my legs back. It’s not 100 percent that I’m there, but the medicine is working right now and there’ll be a time when I feel completely good.”
Gutierrez missed 70 games in 2011, first with a digestive issue and then with a strained left oblique muscle. He missed 122 games in 2010 with a torn pectoral muscle and later with a serious concussion.
He’s had two extensive disabled list stints this season, both due to right hamstring strains. After returning the first time in June, he hit a home run and a double in his first game back, but re-aggravated the injury in his second game.
“It’s been a long time, but I’m really happy to be coming back again and try to help my team,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I’ve been battling with this the whole year, but right now I feel like I’m back again in my normal body. I’m just trying to concentrate and get ready every day and help the team any way that I can.”
Gutierrez is in the final year of a four-year, $20.25 million contract that is paying him $7 million this season. The Mariners have the option of renewing his deal for $7.5 million next year or buying out the 2014 option for $500,000.