HOUSTON — The hope that Franklin Gutierrez would play back-to-back games to start this series was dashed Monday when he couldn’t finish the first game.
Now it’s probable he will go on the disabled list.
Gutierrez injured himself while trying to make a diving catch on Chris Carter’s soft liner to center field in the fourth inning.
He didn’t make the catch after landing awkwardly. Mariners manager Eric Wedge and trainer Rob Nodine jogged out to see Gutierrez after he stayed on the ground for a few moments, slowly got up and moved in noticeable pain.
The Mariners training staff said Gutierrez left the game with a tight right hamstring and would be re-evaluated today.
It was a frustrating but typical conclusion for the fragile Gutierrez, who just hours before talked about the leg issues he battled early this season.
Unlike the concussion, the pectoral strain or the irritable bowel syndrome that placed him on the disabled list for extended periods the past few seasons, Gutierrez has stayed on the Mariners’ active roster, which could change with the latest mishap.
The problem for the Mariners is that he’s only really active and playing a few days a week. Tightness and discomfort in his legs have forced Wedge to sit Gutierrez often. It makes it hard to fill out a daily lineup.
“I’m working on it,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve been having some issues with my legs. It’s not a secret. I’ve been working just to get better and trying to be in the lineup every day. Having a (Sunday) off obviously helps, so I feel better today.”
What had been a secret was the root of the leg problems because the discomfort was not consistently in one spot. The Mariners training staff seems to have it figured out.
“I have some issues with my pelvis, and I’m trying to fix it,” Gutierrez said. “Some days it’s the groin, some days the hamstrings. It’s different, but I’m working on it. I’m doing a lot of things just to get strong in that area and avoid any injury.”
The pain started in spring training, and there are days when he feels better than others.
“It’s the first time I’ve had this,” Gutierrez said. “It just started in spring training. I don’t know why. I’ve never felt that before. I’m doing treatment and working on it and it seems like every day I’m a little better.”
Not being healthy wears on Gutierrez as much as it does on Mariners fans, who want to see him on the field. Gutierrez doesn’t want to be a part-time player.
“The last two to three years have been really tough on me, and I’m trying to be positive and focus on the things I need to do to be on the field,” he said. “Nobody wants to be injured. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be an everyday player and be ready to play.”
Wedge said the plan for Gutierrez was to play Monday and today.
“We’ll see how he feels after the first game,” Wedge said before the game.
Using a semi-healthy Gutierrez in Houston means he faces the only outfield in the majors with a speed bump.
Tal’s Hill is an incline in center field that leads up the wall 436 feet away from the plate. It’s one of the unique configurations of Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
During early batting practice, Gutierrez spent a fair amount of time navigating and studying the outfield and its odd features.
“I just want to have an idea if during the game a fly ball is hit there,” he said. “I want to know how to run down the ball.”
One thing he won’t have to deal with on Tal’s Hill is a fan getting in his way.
On Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Gutierrez thought he had a chance to make a highlight-reel catch over the fence on a ball hit by A.J. Pierzynski.
Gutierrez scaled the wall and reached out to snag the ball for an out, only to have a fan lean over and grab it.
“I was focused on the ball,” he said. “I didn’t know the guy was there. As soon as I climbed the wall and put my glove out, I felt like I hit something. As soon as I turned over, I realized the guy was there — jumping around because he caught the ball.”
The play was ruled a home run, the first run in the Rangers’ 5-0 victory. Replays showed that Gutierrez had a chance of making the catch.
“I’m pretty sure I could have caught that ball,” Gutierrez said. “I don’t understand how they let those people come in there during the games. I got a little bit mad about it because I know I could have caught the ball there.”
In the second game of the series, at 5:10 p.m. today, Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (2-0, 1.69 ERA) will oppose Houston right-hander Bud Norris (2-2, 4.74).
The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish