Gutierrez proving himself with Mariners
Center fielder emerging as constant threat with glove, bat
CLEVELAND -- If Franklin Gutierrez is getting any special satisfaction out of making the Cleveland Indians look bad, he's keeping it to himself.Gutierrez was acquired by the Mariners from the Tribe in December in a three-team trade that included the New York Mets. The outfielder's first series against his former team has been a success. After hitting a solo home run Friday night, Gutierrez followed with a two-run homer and a leaping catch at the wall Saturday night, as well as an RBI single in the first inning Sunday. The fact the Mariners won the first two games made Gutierrez's performance even more satisfying. No one would blame him for doing a little gloating, but he has chosen not to go in that direction. "I don't think that way," he said. "I treat the Indians like they are any other team. Some people think it's great to do well against your old team. I have a lot of friends in Cleveland and nice memories. I'm pretty happy now. This is a great team and they've treated me really well." Gutierrez has made strides offensively this season. Coming into Sunday's game, he was batting .294 with 12 homers -- one short of his career high in 2007 -- and 40 RBIs. He's batting .375 since June 18, raising his average 45 points. While Gutierrez says he hasn't made any adjustments in his swing, he looks like a different hitter from his days with the Indians, when he tried to pull everything and struck out too often. Gutierrez's home runs on Friday and Saturday were to right-center, something he seldom did with the Indians. "It's special when a guy can stay back on an offspeed pitch and drive it out of the ballpark the other way," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "That's where you start to become a complete player. When a guy builds confidence and he can use all parts of the field, you start to get in a different category as a player." Gutierrez's defense is no surprise. With Grady Sizemore running down balls in center, the Indians played Gutierrez in right, where he showed good range and utilized his strong arm. After the trade, the Mariners decided to use him in center. "I came up as a right fielder," Gutierrez said. "I never played that position before. I come here to play center field every day. I feel more comfortable." "We knew he could play defense," said Wakamatsu, who saw Gutierrez play while he was a coach with Texas and Oakland. Gutierrez took an extra-base hit away from Asdrubal Cabrera in the first inning on Saturday with a leaping catch at the wall. The catch provided a big boost to starter Jarrod Washburn, who allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings. "I love the guy," Washburn said. "It's comforting to know you have a guy like that behind you." Washburn played with Darrin Erstad for several seasons with the Angels. At that time, Erstad was one of the top center fielders in the game. Washburn said Gutierrez compares favorably with his former teammate. "Both will run into the wall for you and dive and try to make every play," Washburn said. The series has featured two of the best center fielders in the game in Gutierrez and Sizemore. "It's pretty impressive to watch from both sides," Wakamatsu said.
Steve Herrick is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.