By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
HOUSTON — There isn’t much drama when something is expected.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Seattle Mariners made the roster move everyone knew would happen. The team placed center fielder Franklin Gutierrez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring and recalled outfielder Carlos Peguero from Class AAA Tacoma.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge made it clear after Tuesday’s game that yet another disabled list appearance for Gutierrez seemed like a foregone conclusion after the oft-injured center fielder suffered the injury on a diving catch attempt and was forced to leave Monday’s game.
The future for Gutierrez is uncertain. He will have an MRI on Thursday in Seattle to see the extent of the injury.
“We’ll have a better an idea from there,” Wedge said. “I really can’t put a time limit on it right now.”
It’s the third straight season that Gutierrez will spend time to the disabled list. Last year, he was on there twice, first with a strained pectoral and then later with a concussion. The year before that, he missed a lot of time with complications from irritable bowel syndrome.
He’s played in just 132 games combined during the previous two seasons, including just 40 last season.
“There have been players who have just been snake-bitten before and I do think he’s one of the most unlucky guys I have the fortune of being around,” Wedge said.
It’s not like the Mariners haven’t been proactive in trying to keep Gutierrez healthy.
“Everybody has tried everything under the sun to help him stay on the field,” Wedge said. “Whether it’s body type or bad luck, whatever it may be, there’s nothing that hasn’t been looked at with him. It’s just unfortunate. I feel bad for him and I feel bad for us.”
Peguero heard about Gutierrez from Rainiers manager Daren Brown when he was pulled out of the game.
The move to go with Peguero is somewhat surprising. He was hitting just .246 (15-for-61) with three doubles, a triple, two homers and 14 RBI in 17 games with Tacoma. It seemed like Eric Thames might get the call instead. Thames is tearing the cover off the ball in Tacoma, hitting .347 (26-for-75) with four doubles, a triple and four homers with 10 RBI. He has a .449 on-base percentage thanks to 13 walks. He’s struck out 20 times, but has a slugging percentage of .587.
So why did Wedge choose Carlos Peguero over Eric Thames for the roster?
“We talked about Eric as well, but I just felt like we were better off with Carlos defensively and on the base paths as well,” Wedge said.
Wedge also mentioned Peguero’s improved patience at the plate as something of a positive. Peguero has taken 11 walks in 74 plate appearances. Last year, he took 29 in 322 plate appearances at the Class AAA level.
Brown told Wedge that Peguero had been working hard with hitting coach Howard Johnson about being more disciplined and not chasing pitches out of the strike zone.
“It’s as much as being willing to take those walks as anything,” Wedge said. “As big as he is, and as strong as he is, he does scare people out of the zone. He has been better with (taking pitches).”
The problem with Peguero is that he can let the gravity of the situation overtake that teaching. It’s something former Rainiers hitting coach Jeff Pentland lamented this spring. Pentland said all the progress he would make with Peguero in terms of approach or swing changes would go out the door the moment he got up with runners in scoring position or in big situations.
That was also the case in his previous major league appearances. He just seems to forget everything he should and is supposed to be doing and just starts taking mad hacks trying to hit the ball of the planet.
Will he be different this time?
“Every time I get called up and then get sent back down, I learn something,” Peguero said. “I’ve been walking more. I’m just trying to look for my pitch. I’m trying to look for that good one.”
How long Peguero is actually with the team or how much he plays is based on the return of Michael Saunders, who is eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday. Saunders is near ready, although the Mariners might wait a day or two before activating him.
Saunders played catch on Wednesday and threw from a distance of more than 60 feet
“I was able to put a little more on it,” he said “There’s still the feeling of a little discomfort. It’s encouraging to actually get out there and do it.”
But there’s been no pain in the shoulder when it comes to hitting.
“It was probably the best I felt,” he said. “I saw some carry on the ball. It was coming off my bat a little better.”
The shoulder has forced him to make a few minor adjustments to his swing for the moment.
“I’m still finishing with two hands,” he said. “But the swing actually feels really good with that finish. I know as the days go on, it will get more flexible. It might be one of those things in a game, where your competitive nature takes over and you just forget about it. And you take a good hard cut and you let go with your top hand as you make contact.”
Saunders wouldn’t say if he was coming back Friday and neither would Wedge.
“I feel like it’s going to be around the corner,” he said. “I’m definitely getting close. But it depends on the situation. If it’s what’s best for me, and what’s best for the team, I will go down and play. If I can step back in right away, I will do that to.”
He knows he can’t come back to soon if he isn’t full healed. He’s made that mistake before.
“It was the same thing with my groin last year,” he said. “I pushed it and I got pulled back in the fourth inning or whenever it was when I had a play to make. It was more in the end of the year last year. Luckily it happened at the beginning of this year, it’s one of those things where I have to make sure I’m not going to injure it any further.
“If I’m able to go out there and play to an ability to help the club, I can’t rush back and be disservice to the club by not being able to perform to the best of my ability.”