When the Mariners lost center fielder Austin Jackson to a sprained ankle on Monday, they did not call up former Gold Glove winner Franklin Gutierrez.
But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen this season.
The 32-year-old outfielder has been impressive for Triple-A Tacoma in his comeback bid, especially for a player who sat out all of the 2014 season.
“It was a pretty tough decision last year,” said Gutierrez, who forfeited a guaranteed contract in 2014. “I just decided to take a little time and get my body back in shape.”
The oft-injured Gutierrez agreed to a minor league contract for 2015, and so far he has produced for Tacoma. Entering Saturday, Gutierrez is hitting .324 with four homers and 15 runs batted in. He’s been the most patient hitter on the team, drawing 16 walks and posting a .457 on-base percentage.
“I’m just trying to get back in shape again,” Gutierrez says. “It’s not easy, obviously, because I’ve been out for a year and I’m trying to come back with my swing and my legs.”
Gutierrez won his Gold Glove as a center fielder in 2008, but he has played just one game in center for Tacoma. Manager Pat Listach has started Gutierrez in left field three or four times per week, while mixing him in at designated hitter to rest his legs.
“Obviously my body changed a lot,” said Gutierrez. “Before I used to play every day in center field, a very tough position to play. Right now I’m playing more in the corners to take care of my legs. That’s what I am right now.”
Gutierrez had a scare on Friday night in Fresno, leaving the game with a hamstring cramp after legging out an infield single in the fifth inning. He’s not expected to miss much time.
HOUSE ALWAYS WINS
The Las Vegas 51s won 14 consecutive games before seeing their streak end with a 10-6 loss in El Paso on Friday night. It was the longest win streak in the 33-year history of the franchise, and it was also the longest win streak for any Pacific Coast League team in the past 10 years.
The New York Mets affiliate pulled this off despite having four players called up during the two-week streak, which started on April 23rd. The 51s won the final two games of a series at Reno, then executed three four-game sweeps. All 14 wins came against Reno and Albuquerque.
Top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard capped the streak on Thursday by holding Albuquerque to two runs over eight innings, while adding a triple and a homer at the plate. Syndergaard will be called up to make his major league debut for the Mets on Tuesday.