Ah, center field.
The Seattle Mariners have memories of Ken Griffey Jr. out there, ruling the position in the '90s. And, once he'd been traded, Mike Cameron – against all odds – won the hearts of fans at Safeco Field with his play in center.
Since Cameron, the position has been wide open.
Last year, for instance, the position was manned by an unhappy Ichiro, Wladimir Balentien, Willie Bloomquist, Miguel Cairo and Jeremy Reed. That added to a cast that's included Adam Jones, Randy Winn, Joe Borchard, Matt Lawton, Jamal Strong, Quinton McCracken and Hiram Bocachica since 2004.
This year, the Mariners are bringing one legitimate center fielder to camp – Franklin Gutierrez – and another, Endy Chavez, who is said to be just as capable.
What can Mariners fans expect?
That will be one of the quieter stories to follow all spring. Gutierrez is far more of a question mark at the plate, where he has a .248 career average, than in the field. At 26, scouts say Gutierrez is an All-Star on defense, with marvelous range and the ability to make plays anywhere.
Think Jeremy Reed with more speed and a better arm. And, unlike the potential Seattle fans saw in Jones – along with the mistakes of a young outfielder – Gutierrez has experience.
Mariners fans have been waiting to fall in love with a center fielder again since Cameron left after 2003. Gutierrez isn't going to hit 25 home runs and might not hit 10. He isn't going to drive in 100 runs, either.
But in the field, the Mariners believe they've filled that gaping hole in center. If he can play the position and throw in a few dazzlers, Gutierrez has the likeable personality fans can embrace.
He's a big piece of the 'new' Mariners. Let's start him up and see how he runs.