Today, Franklin Gutierrez got hurt in an inter-squad game. The Mariners don’t have the results of the MRI yet, but they have identified his problem as a pectoral muscle injury.
As a life-long Mariner fan, I have learned to just assume the worst in every situation, so I am going to take a look at what the Mariners may do in the situation that Gutierrez would have to miss this season or at least part of the season.
1. Another centerfielder could step right into Gutierrez’ spot. Trayvon Robinson and Michael Saunders are the first
names that I think are currently most qualified for the center field job. I personally prefer Robinson; he showed some great defensive abilities in the outfield last year. While he doesn’t have the power of Saunders, I am tired of waiting for Saunders to learn how get on base at the major league level, and I would prefer to see Robinson get a shot.
2. Ichiro could move to center field and a corner outfielder come move to right field. Ichiro has already been moved out of his comfort zone as leadoff man, so the Mariners may as well move him out of his comfort zone in right field. It’s easier to fill a corner outfield position than it is to fill center.
Players, such as, Robinson and Saunders are both options for right field but others like Casper Wells, Carlos Peguero, or Mike Wilson could all play right field as well. Some great power was exhibited by Casper Wells last year which was especially impressive for a right hander in Safeco Field. It would be nice to see him get another chance to start.
Keep in mind that Vinnie Catricala can play some outfield. He might not be ready for the big leagues but he has hit very well at every level of competition he’s seen thus far and has looked good in inter squad games against some MLB level pitching. This could be the opportunity he has been waiting for.
3. Figgins can move to centerfield and someone else can step into third base. People often forget that Chone Figgins was primarily an outfielder for his first couple of seasons with the Angels. He played as many as 96 games in center in the 2006 season. While Chone may have lost a step since his younger days, he still has plus speed that could be utilized in the spacious outfield of Safeco Field. This would also open up a spot at third base that could go in several different directions.
Bryant wrote an excellent article on the third base situation earlier today that is a must read so I won’t bother repeating his observations. I will, however, reiterate that this could be the perfect storm that gets Catricala a spot on the major league roster. Carlos Guillen could also step into the third base role for the short term. If he can evade injury, I think he can put together a respectable season, but I would much rather see those at bats go to someone like Liddi or Seager.
These are just a few of the possible solutions for what is now suddenly a vacant center field position. Before I blow this out of proportion, I should probably point out that there is a possibility that Franklin’s injury is insignificant and he will be ready by opening day. Either way, here are a couple of things to think about.