By Shannon Drayer
A bit of unexpected news came out of Peoria, Ariz. Thursday morning as the Mariners announced that outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has told the club he will not play in 2014.
Gutierrez said he has suffered a relapse of many of the symptoms he struggled with last spring, and does not believe it is fair to the team to come to camp if he is unable to compete due to health reasons. Instead, he will spend the upcoming season focusing on getting fully healthy.
As a result the Mariners have placed Gutierrez on the restricted list, which clears him from the 40-man roster. That roster space has been filled by reliever Fernando Rodney, who was announced as signed Thursday morning. Gutierrez had signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Mariners in December. Players on the restricted list are not paid.
After missing just 19 games in his first two years with the Mariners, Gutierrez was out 313 of the next 486. While some of those days were missed because of injury, the majority were missed because of illness, one that has been very tough to diagnose. As frustrating as this has been for the team and fans, it has been even more so for Gutierrez.
Stomach problems first sidelined Gutierrez in the spring of 2011. After an eventual trip to the Mayo Clinic he was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. Gutierrez was relieved to have answers but the problems were far from behind him. In the spring of 2013 he reported feeling unusual tightness in his legs and pelvis. After more doctor visits he told the media he had been diagnosed with ankylosing spondilitis.
From my blog post that day:
"This thing started in spring training," Gutierrez said. "I didn't know what it was. It was tough to play like this. I have been dealing with it the whole year, feeling the inflammation in the pelvis, lower back. Trying to run like that is not easy. Right now I feel like it is under control."
Interestingly enough, stomach problems can be part of A.S.
"I started dealing with this, I guess, the past two years," Gutierrez said. "It started with the stomach and some other things. I think it is all connected, they think it is all connected. I am glad that finally they found out what was going on with me."
When we met with Gutierrez after his signing in December he said he was optimistic that the medication he was taking would allow him to get out on the field enough to contribute to the team in 2014. Playing 19 games in September without any problems was encouraging, and other than a bout with the flu in Venezuela in October, he had been healthy for some time. The recurrence of symptoms strong enough to make him believe that he needed to take a year off and concentrate on his health must have been a tremendous blow for him.
The Mariners were not counting on Gutierrez to be an everyday player this year, but there is little doubt a healthy Gutierrez could have contributed to this team. The important thing now, however, is his health. It would appear his focus is in the right place.