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Death To Flying Things Returns

The Mariners made another feel-good move today. They promoted Franklin Gutierrez from AAA Tacoma and sent James Jones back down to make room. Guti erupted for a monster season back in 2009, and stayed pretty good with amazing defense until ankylosing spondylitis* made his joints ache to the point he couldn't really move. It turns out it is hard to play baseball when you can't move your joints, and by hard I mean impossible. Guti missed all of last year learning how to manage the condition.

*I haven't thoroughly researched MLB injuries for any other players diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis but I am pretty certain Gutierrez is the first MLB player ever to play with the condition, at least diagnosed. Fun fact?

Gutierrez signed a minor league deal this past winter to try to make a comeback. He played sparingly in spring training, and has played as able in Tacoma. In 48 games he amassed a healthy .317/.402/.500 triple slash, and there is something sabermetrically lush about that 3-4-5 triple slash. It suggests contact, plate discipline, and power.

I heard an interview with Jack Zduriencik last week on the radio (710AM, the M's flagship if I remember right) where Guti came up. Z mentioned that Gutierrez wasn't up because he wasn't certain enough that he could play every day with his condition. Now, in pregame remarks, Lloyd McClendon references the string of left-handers the Mariners about to face in the next week and a half as the reason to bring Guti up now. Neither of these reasons ring all that true to me. Gutierrez can't be optioned back down because of his MLB service time, so he's not up here for the next week and a half. Moreover, how much does Guti have to play to contribute? So what if he can't go every day? He just replaced James Jones, who got a whopping total of 8 at-bats over 7 games, in part because Jones was often a late innings defensive replacement who didn't get an at-bat.

I'll look past the fact that Franklin Gutierrez pretty much has the same skillset as Justin Ruggiano, whom the Mariners DFAd less than a month ago, and just bask in the happiness of this move. There are reasons to believe that Gutierrez will legitimately help the Mariners if he can play frequently enough, so obviously that's exciting. Beyond that, there is the emerging storyline here of a nice comeback.

The Mariners under Jack Zduriencik seem to have a knack for reclamation projects. Tom Wilhelmsen was a bartender, and Steve Delabar a substitute teacher. Arthur Rhodes squeezed a few more years in the majors out of an M's invite to spring training. Right now Mark Lowe is a revived soul and maybe better than he ever. The M's also stuck with Erik Bedard as he worked through all his arm troubles and ultimately put together a few more decent seasons once he got back on the mound.

I don't know if the Mariners have a better rate than average on reclamations, but they seem to have a certain patience and perseverance to see these kind of projects through. Either that or they find themselves in desperate positions enough to give reclamation projects a chance. Whatever the reason, Gutierrez hopes to be the latest Mariner to rise from the ashes under Jack Zduriencik. I hope Guti is the latest Mariner to make a comeback too.