By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE – For Franklin Gutierrez, he feels normal. And that’s something he hadn’t experienced yet this season. There’s no nagging pain in his hips or legs or ankles. He’s healthy. And that’s a good a thing for him and the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners activated Gutierrez from the 60-day disabled list on Saturday and he was immediately placed in the starting lineup in center field and batting sixth against the Oakland A’s.
To make room on the 25-man roster, the Mariners placed Michael Morse on the 15-day disabled list — retroactive to June 21. Morse is eligible to come off on July 6. To make room on the 40-man roster, outfielder Eric Thames was designated for assignment.
Gutierrez took early batting practice and regular batting practice and was all smiles in the clubhouse.
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “I’ve been having a long rehab. I’ve had some issues with my legs. It hasn’t been easy for me. I’m feeling much better. I’m feeling more normal now. That’s the only thing that matters right now. I’m going to try to do whatever I can to help the team.”
Gutierrez initially went on the disabled list with a strained hamstring on April 23, but this has been a season-long issue where he has felt discomfort in his hips, knees and legs in general.
Recently, doctors figured out that Gutierrez has a genetic disorder that basically causes inflammation and arthritic pain in his joints and other parts of his body.
“I started taking some medicine, and it’s working now,’ Gutierrez said. “It took about three or four weeks to start feeling better. I didn’t know what I had and they didn’t know either. They found out that it caused all these things. As soon as I started the medicine, I started feeling better and better and better.”
Gutierrez wasn’t sure of the exact name of the condition and Mariners medical staff chose not to comment on specifics other than it was a disorder causing inflammation in the joints.
“They finally figured out what was going on,” Gutierrez said. “It wasn’t their fault, because they’re doing a really good job on me, doing everything I ask them to do. I guess we got to the time where they found out what it is, and I’m feeling much better. It was affecting my joints, even my eye was getting inflammation. So many people didn’t know about this, and we didn’t need to talk about it until now. Obviously, I don’t want to make a big deal about this, but it’s what’s been happening. I’m feeling much better now. I’m taking the medication, it’s working.”
Gutierrez has missed 53 games this season. It was the third straight season, he’s missed more than 50 games.
“Obviously, it’s been frustrating, because no one wants to be on the DL,” he said. “No one wants to have an injury. I just want to help my team, I just want to be here. It’s been a tough road for me. I just want to stay positive and do whatever I can the rest of the season.”
Mariners’ manager Eric Wedge is glad to have Gutierrez back. His team can use any and all help.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that we heard was that he said, ‘I feel normal for the first time in a while.’ That’s encouraging,” Wedge said. “He stole some bases down there (in Tacoma), hit for some power. It should be a boost for us to have him back.
Wedge believes Gutierrez could play everyday if needed, but probably won’t do that right away.
“We’re not going to push the envelope. I don’t think we can with him,” Wedge said. “We just want to keep him in a good spot and that’s where he was right now.”
Prior to going on the disabled, Gutierrez was hitting .259 (14-for-54) with four home runs and 10 RBI in 16 games.
Gutierrez’s health will allow the ailing Morse to finally go on the disabled list and fully recover from the strained quadriceps. He’s been playing through it for about three weeks. He appeared in 11 of the Mariners last 23 games.
“We pinch hit him the other day and when he said he felt it at home plate that was a pretty big red flag for us,” Wedge said. “He helped bridge the gap for us. With Smoak being down, and Guti not here and Morales a little bit banged up and Bay little banged up, for him to suck it up and try to get through it, that was great.”
Thames was a roster casualty. He was hitting .295 with 14 doubles, seven homers and 33 RBI in 57 games for the Rainiers. He is currently on the minor league disabled list with a wrist injury.