By Brent Stecker
Franklin Gutierrez has had his moments for the Mariners.
There was the first diving catch that prompted Dave Niehaus to enthusiastically bestow upon him the nickname of “Death to Flying Things.” There are the tools that allow him to be effective both at the top of or in the heart of the batting order. There are the glimpses of power we see every time he’s in the lineup.
Franklin Gutierrez made this catch Sunday vs. Oakland, but he re-injured his hamstring and was forced to leave the game just days after coming off the disabled list. (AP)
But therein lies the problem with the Mariners’ veteran center fielder – he just can’t seem to stay in the lineup, as evidenced by his most recent injury that took him out of Sunday’s win over Oakland, only his second game back from a two-month break from Major League Baseball.
He’s had just about every kind of injury you could encounter on a baseball field over his five-year tenure with the Mariners, including a mystery illness in 2010 that turned out to be irritable bowel syndrome, and this season’s recurring hamstring issues, which have been the biggest reason he’s appeared in just 18 games for the team in 2013.
It’s been a long time since Gutierrez’s stellar play on the field has been the norm. Instead, like a poor man’s Ken Griffey Jr. during the Cincinnati years, it’s no longer a surprise when he hits the disabled list. It’s simply expected.
Should the Mariners continue the cycle of Gutierrez injuries, rehab assignments and short stints in the lineup, or should they cut him loose? That was a pressing issue on “Wyman, Mike and Moore” on Monday, and the answer isn’t clear cut. Jim Moore and Dave Wyman remember the good times, and hope the 30-year-old Gutierrez will finally find consistent health and help the Mariners. Michael Grey believes he’s had enough chances, and he’s only blocking outfield prospects.
Recent history doesn’t help Gutierrez case. He’s missed at least 50 games in each of the last three seasons. His on-base percentage hasn’t topped .310 since 2009. He may be one of the game’s elite center fielders, but his spectacular plays come with a tremendous price.
It’s evident the Mariners aren’t destined for greatness in 2013, and that could work two ways for Gutierrez – either the Mariners want to give him one last shot to try and stay healthy, or they can take the second half of the campaign to give players like Dustin Ackley, Carlos Peguero and Stefen Romero a chance to roam the outfield of Safeco Field.
At the very least, Gutierrez should know the clock is ticking.