The Mariners made a roster move just before batting practice, activating outfielder Franklin Gutierrez from the disabled list and designating Aaron Harang for assignment.
With the Mariners facing three straight left-handed starting pitchers in three days, Mariners manager Eric Wedge wanted an extra right-handed bat available.
Gutierrez was in the clubhouse stretching and is in tonight’s starting lineup batting third and playing right field.
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"It feels good to be back again," he said. "It’s been a long time. I’m really happy I’m coming back to help my team."
If that sounds familiar, it's because it's basically the same thing he said the previous two times he returned to the Mariners after injury absences.
He has spent most of this season battling right hamstring issues. He was placed on the disabled list twice this season with a strained right hamstring. The first time was May 16-June 2, and then on June 24 until today. The DL stints included four rehabilitation assignments to Triple A Tacoma: May 16-June 2;June 12-22; July 18-Aug. 6 and Aug. 11-25. He's played more rehab games with Tacoma (47) than real games with the Mariners (18 games).
So what makes this time different? Nothing really. There is no logical reason to think he will stay any healthier this time. Though the Mariners' hope this return lasts longer than the 48 hours it took for him to get hurt the last time he came off the disabled list.
Gutierrez believes this time around could be different because it's been almost three months since he was diagnosed with having Ankylosing Spondylitis. Basically, it's a genetic disease where a person develops arthritis in the back, which can lead pain and stiffness in the pelvic and lower back to a person's extremities.
"This thing started in spring training and they didn’t know what it is," he said. "It’s tough to play like that. Not many people know about this. But I’ve been dealing with this the whole year."
It made playing on a daily basis difficult.
"Feeling that inflammation in the pelvis and lower back and try to run like that, it’s not easy," he said. "Right now, I feel like it’s under control. I’ve got three months with the medicine. The healing process has been slow, but good. I’m feeling much better. I don’t have as much pain."
Gutierrez isn't sure that he can play every day. He wasn't on his latest rehab stint with Tacoma.
"I’ve been playing two days in a row and then have a day off," he said. "I’ve been playing like that and I’ve been feeling much better that way than playing every day. "
It's unlikely that Wedge will even consider playing him daily.
"Like I told him today, 'we'll communicate every day with regard to how you are feeling and just how much we'll be able to play and we'll go from there,'" Wedge said.
With Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse on the roster, Wedge isn't held hostage by Gutierrez's health.
"We've got enough options out there right now," Wedge deadpanned. "It's a bit of a traffic jam. We'll continue to put our best line-up out there."
On his current rehab assignment (Aug. 11-25), Gutierrez hit .179 (7-for-39) with 5 runs, 4 doubles, 3 RBI, 5 walks and 13 strikeouts. In 47 games with the Rainiers overall, he hit .211 (41-for-194) with 16 doubles, 3 home runs 25 RBI, 15 walks and 60 strikeouts.
Gutierrez has played 18 games with the Mariners this season, posting a .267 average (16-for-60) with 4 doubles, 5 home runs, 11 RBI, 2 walks and 15 strikeouts.
Harang, 35, started 22 games his season, compiling a 5-11 record with a 5.76 ERA. In 120.1 innings pitched, he allowed 133 hits and 77 earned runs.
"I had some inconsistencies that I have to work on," he said. "I know I can still pitch at this level. I'm not worried about that part. It's just making sure I figure out the little things and make those adjustments. I will get my stuff together, head home, keep working out and hopefully hook on with somebody soon."
It was an odd season for Harang. He came into spring training with the Dodgers after a full season in their starting rotation. He failed to make the team out of spring was designated for assignment and claimed by the Rockies. The Mariners sent a minor league pitcher to Colorado in exchange for Harang in April.
"It's part of the game," he said. "I've been around this long enough and seen it enough times. Fortunately, this was the first time I've actually been told face to face that I've been designated. It's a little tougher than I expected."
Seattle now has 10 days to trade, release or outright the contract of Harang to the minors.
Wedge said they've had discussed who might fill the spot in the rotation, but said they are still making that decision.
Obviously, most Mariners fans want to see Taijuan Walker. The timing would fit since Harang and Walker both pitched yesterday.
"It's not the first time I've heard that," Wedge said chuckling. "You have to weigh: what's the upside, what's the downside, what's the risk-reward this year for him, for us and on into next year and into the future. You have to ask yourself those questions. You have to be very frank with each other when you have four or five people in that room and you are talking about it to where you can come up with the best decision. Ultimately,that's why we aren't rushing into anything."
There's been much discussion about Walker's innings limit. He's thrown 141 1/3 innings this year. There was some thought that his limit would be around 150-155 based on the fact he threw a career high 126 2/3 innings last year. That would give him just a handful of big league starts. Wedge said he isn't opposed to calling up a younger pitcher up for just one or two starts and then bringing up another younger pitcher for one or two starts to space it out.
"That's okay," Wedge said. "We've got multiple guys that we feel have a chance to be pretty good starting pitchers for us heading into the future. Because we have options like that, we feel we can cover the rest of the season. And when I say cover, I mean - give not just one guy, but maybe a couple different guys an opportunity."
Wedge said they won't alter innings limits for players out of need.
"We know where we want to end up with these guys," Wedge said. "Everyone's situation is different from a workload standpoint. We are going to make sure we don't alter that."