A familiar face was in the Mariners clubhouse on Tuesday and dressed in full uniform. Oft-injured center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who has yet to play a game this season, dressed out and took batting practice with the team.
Gutierrez has been in Seattle for the past few weeks, getting treatment on his injured heel and doing some hitting in the cage. But the next few days represent a huge step for him. He will take BP on the field with the team. And tomorrow, he will try running for the first time and some agility drills.
“Tomorrow is going to be first day moving around and seeing how my foot feels,” he said. “Right now, it feels pretty good. Let’s see when I start running.”
If all goes well, Gutierrez will head to Arizona to get some game action in extended spring training games. Because a rehab assignment is only 20 days, and he’s basically been out since spring training, the Mariners want to use the extended spring games to get him more at-bats.
“He just needs to stay healthy, nothing more, nothing less,” Wedge said. “It’s been all about the heel the last two or three weeks. He’s been throwing fine. He’s been hitting fine. So it’s just about him being able to move around and the heel not giving him any problems.”
The heel issues popped as Gutierrez was recovering from a partially torn pectoral muscle that he suffered in spring training. There wasn’t one incident that caused the pain, but a gradual building. And days before he was ready to report to his rehab assignment, he was shut down.
“I was doing some exercises down in Arizona and felt something there,” he said. “But I didn’t pay much attention to it. We play through soreness. I just kept doing it and doing it and it got worse. And I had to stop. I was ready to go and do my rehab assignment and it just happened.”
It was another setback in what has been two seasons worth for the talented outfielder, who has battled intestinal issues and other injuries.
“Obviously it was frustrating, could you imagine having two years without being healthy at all?” he said. “I just want to play. I’ve been out so many days.”
Speaking of rehab assignments, Miguel Olivo is on day two of his assignment with the Rainiers. Olivo went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in an 18-8 loss as the DH. Olivo will catch nine innings tomorrow and then possibly DH on Thursday’s day game to get a few more at-bats. Wedge expects him to re-join the Mariners this weekend.
That means there would be a corresponding roster move. But Wedge didn’t want to speculate on what that move would be, saying “we have an idea what we want to do.”
It seems likely that either Alex Liddi or Casper Wells would be optioned to Triple A Tacoma to make room for Olivo.
That leads to the question — What should the Mariners do with Olivo?
Obviously he’s not part of their future plans. And the only way for Jesus Montero and John Jaso to improve defensively is to play. Both guys have given the team a spark offensively. Before the season, it seemed likely that the Mariners would try and deal Olivo before the trade deadline. That could still happen. The Washington Nationals could use catching help as could a few other teams. But Olivo would have to prove he’s healthy and at least somewhat productive. That won’t happen unless he plays. How much he will play remains to be seen. If they showcase him to be traded, he will play much more than Mariners fans want. Same thing happened with Yuni Betancourt a few years ago.
Another thing to remember is that Olivo has a reputation of being a big of a pouter when he doesn’t play consistently. He isn’t exactly a disruptive problem, but he makes it clear he is unhappy when he isn’t the featured catcher. It happened when he was with the Royals and Rockies.
It will be interesting to see how Wedge and GM Jack Zduriencik handle the situation.