BY John Hickey 12:56PM 03/24/2011

Stomach problems are back for Gutierrez

Mariners’ Gold Glove center fielder hasn’t played for four days, won’t play Thursday, and the season’s start is just a week away.

Mariner outfielder Franklin Gutierrez's stomach problems continue to be a problem. / Getty Images

Franklin Gutierrez hasn’t played in center field for Seattle the last four days, and he’s not going to be in the lineup Thursday, either.

At issue is Gutierrez’s ongoing history of stomach problems. The Mariners and Gutierrez thought they’d gotten the issue under control with the determination of Gutierrez having a “slow digestive tract’’ earlier this month.

That may yet prove to be true. But Gutierrez isn’t feeling at the top of his game, he’s been tested some more. The season is just over a week away, and at this point Gutierrez isn’t even taking part in full workouts, much less games.

“We’ve got to get Franklin to a place where he feels comfortable,’’ Mariners’ general manager Jack Zduriencik told thenewstribune.com. “It’s bothering him, and we’re waiting for more test results. Franklin doesn’t feel strong.’’

There were initial reports that Gutierrez was being held out because of back problems, and while his back is an issue, it seems his stomach problems haven’t cleared up as had been expected.

The diagnosis of the “slow digestive tract’’ and the medications that have been prescribed to combat it have not left Gutierrez feeling baseball-ready, and the clock is running.

The Mariners open on Friday, April 1, in Oakland, and that gives the club basically a week to get Gutierrez right or face the possibility of him starting the season on the disabled list. It’s for that reason that Michael Saunders is still in the mix, even though it seems the Mariners want Saunders to start the season in the minor leagues with Milton Bradley opening as Seattle’s regular center fielder.

If Gutierrez can’t go, it’s likely Saunders would be the likely opening day center fielder, although the team’s utility outfielder, Ryan Langerhans, could yet work his way in to contention.

NOTES: On the upside, catcher Miguel Olivo reportedly felt fine Thursday morning after having caught three innings Wednesday, the first test after he’d missed most of March because of a groin strain. The plan is for Olivo to get three at-bats as a designated hitter in a minor league game. … While Olivo seems likely to be ready to start the season, non-roster catchers Josh Bard and Chris Gimenez seem likely to stay with the team until the club is absolutely sure.

Twitter: @JHickey3


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