Mariners Insider Blog

Around the Horn: Gutierrez is the center fielder

Franklin Gutierrez is the center fielder for the Seattle Mariners.

Whatever else happens this spring, the outfielder acquired by GM Jack Zduriencik in the J.J. Putz trade has won the job he was brought in to fill. Defensively, he's shown range and speed, a good arm and a fearlessness around teammates and walls – no small thing in any outfielder.

Offensively, he's the kind of hitter who has fully accepted the little ball attack that manager Don Wakamatsu likes to play in different parts of his lineup. Gutierrez is a fine bunter, a patient hitter who will take pitches and a man who can put the ball in play on hit-and-run efforts.

No, he's not likely to blossom into a .300 hitter or hit 20 home runs.

But just as Mike Cameron won Safeco Field fans after Ken Griffey Jr. departed, those who appreciate solid baseball may come to embrace Gutierrez. He's shy but has a great smile. And he plays baseball the way it's been played well for a century or so.

Gutierrez may allow the Mariners to use a Griffey or Mike Morse in left field on occasion, allowing them to shade more toward the line because Gutierrez can cover so much ground.

The bottom line, however, is this: He wasn't brought in to carry the team. He's here because what the Mariners are trying to do is build a team.