BY John Hickey 12:47AM 05/28/2011

Hickey: Gutierrez’s catch wows everybody but himself

Center fielder’s catch against Yankees proves crucial in Mariners’ 4-3 win over Yankees Friday, but don’t tell that to Gutierrez.

Franklin Gutierrez makes it look as easy as 1-2-3 in center field when robbing Nick Swisher of a home run Friday night. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The Gold Glove that Ichiro Suzuki won last year has long since left Safeco Field and is safely tucked away with his prize mementos.

The Gold Glove that has Franklin Gutierrez’s name on it, on the other hand, is still in Gutierrez’s locker. He’ll take it home at some point, but there’s no rush. It is, after all, not a big deal.

At least that’s the way Gutierrez seems to view it. He made a left-center to right-center spring before making an athletic jump into the wall to steal a home run from the Yankees’ Nick Swisher in the fourth inning of what turned out to be a 4-3 Seattle win.

Without the catch, the Mariners very well might not have won. Starting pitcher Michael Pineda, who on a tough night made it through five innings, might not have made it that far without Gutierrez.

And what did Gutierrez have to say for himself?

“It was a good catch, I guess,” he said. “It was nothing special. I was just trying to do my job.”

Ichiro, who was racing over from right to help out as needed, slapped his glove in approval, then headed back to the dugout.

“With Guti, we’ve got some stabilization in the outfield,” Ichiro said. “It helps a lot. That was special.”

Pineda put it in a slightly different tone.

“(When Swisher hit it), I said ‘Oh, my god,’ ” Pineda said. “So now I’m looking for the Guti, saying, ‘Oh, oh wow, wow.’ ”

If the Mariners need a slogan for this recent surge that has them back to .500 at 25-25, they could do worse than “Oh, oh wow, wow.”

David Pauley, who ultimately would get the pitching win in this one, was sitting in the bullpen and had as good a view of the catch as anyone in the park who wasn’t Ichiro.

“That was unbelievable,” Pauley said. “It was an empty feeling when Guti wasn’t here to start the season with us. He’s a fun center fielder to watch. He’s a centerpiece.”

Gutierrez had trouble with undiagnosed stomach issues last year, thought he’d gotten over them during the winter, then found during spring training that he was wrong. He didn’t play in a spring game after March 19 after a trip to the Mayo Clinic came back with a diagnosis of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

The Mariners had to wait for him to get healthy, then to put back his lost weight. Then he headed out for some injury rehabilitation work. After two months away, Gutierrez was activated May 18. He’s started seven of 10 games since his return, and the Mariners are 7-0 in those games.

It’s not a coincidence according to Ichiro, who said “we’re a better team with Guti out there.’’

Gutierrez was set up in left center for Swisher, but got a quick break when Swisher made contact against Pineda. With his huge strides and amazing jumping ability, the center fielder snaked his glove above the wall in right center to steal a run from the Yankees and start Mariners’ tongues wagging.

“It didn’t look like a play that anybody could make at first,” shortstop Brendan Ryan said. “But Guti was graceful, almost nonchalant. Maybe it was ordinary for him. Then he got up in the air like he was making a great rebound.”

Compare that to what Gutierrez had to say about the catch:

“I was just trying to do my job,” he said. “I didn’t see the replay. I don’t know how good it was.”

What Gutierrez does know is how good it feels to be healthy enough to make that catch.

“Two or three weeks ago, I don’t know if I could do that,” he said. “But it feels good to be healthy and to be back and able to play every day.”

NOTES: Reliever David Pauley extended his scoreless innings streak to 13 with two shutout innings of relief and ran his record to 3-0 in the process. Pauley lowered his ERA to 0.89. … Shawn Kelley has been shut down for at least a month three games into his injury rehabilitation assignment. The reliever had his right elbow checked out by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and Andrews injected the elbow with platelet-rich plasma with the hope that after a month or so, Kelley could start throwing again and avoid elbow surgery, which he’s already had a couple of times. Then-Mariner LHP Cliff Lee successfully underwent a similar procedure in the spring of 2010. … Chone Figgins was given the night off Friday after a six-game road trip in which he went 2-for-27, bringing his overall average down to .202. Manager Eric Wedge said that he has no plans to move Figgins, who has been batting second, down in the lineup. “We’re not to that point yet,” Wedge said. … Ichiro remains in the middle of a slump – he was 4-for-25 on the just-completed six-game road swing – but he added a fifth hit for the trip before Friday’s Safeco Field game against the Yankees. MLB credited Ichiro with a single instead of a fielder’s choice on a second-inning run-scoring infield tapper back in the May 22 game in San Diego. He had a double that set up a two-run rally in the fifth inning Friday, then brought home the eventual winning run with a grounder an inning later.

Twitter:@JHickey3


YourThoughts

  • Hansville Pasta Boy

    Excellent article and stunning photo’s of Guti’s catch.

  • Hansville Pasta Boy

    Excellent article and stunning photo’s of Guti’s catch.