Gutierrez making immediate impact atop lineup
CHICAGO -- Franklin Gutierrez has rarely been a leadoff hitter in his Major League career, but the Mariners center fielder has made an immediate impact there in the early going this season.
Gutierrez hit safely in Seattle's first five games and was batting .412 going into Saturday's contest with the White Sox. Not only has he been swinging a steady bat, he's hit with power, leading off games on Wednesday and Friday with home runs.
But in typical Guti fashion, he's not looking to make a big deal of any of that.
"Oh man," said the 30-year-old. "I'm just trying to get on base. That's it. Obviously in the leadoff spot, when the game is starting, they throw more fastballs, so I'm trying to be ready for that. If I hit it good, it can go out. So I'm fine with that."
Gutierrez is splitting the leadoff role with Michael Saunders. He'll lead off against left-handed pitchers, with Saunders leading off against righties. The biggest issue with Gutierrez is keeping him healthy after he played just 132 games over the past two seasons because of various ailments.
For that reason, manager Eric Wedge didn't have him in the lineup on Saturday as he brings him along slowly after some leg soreness late in Spring Training. The White Sox started right-hander Dylan Axelrod, but Wedge said that wasn't why Gutierrez was rested.
"It's not so much right-left. It's just about when I feel Gut needs a day," Wedge said. "I'm trying to keep him ahead of it. It was a long night last night and with the cold weather and everything, I felt like it was the smart thing to give him a day today. I like playing them both all the time, but we're still working everybody through and doing what we need to do.
"He's performed great. We just want to try to continue to help him physically and make sure we stay ahead of everything."
Wedge does like what he's seen of Gutierrez in the leadoff role, which he had filled only 16 times in 721 career games prior to this season.
"I think the dynamic of him and Saunders up top is going to work for us," Wedge said. "I do like the right-left in regard to the leadoff spot with those two when they're both in there, then plug the other one in behind him. If one of them isn't in there, then we can push [Kyle] Seager in there, which has worked out well for us. It's nice to have these options."