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Gutierrez's health is a big key for Mariners

The SportsXchange

The Seattle Mariners went out of their way to bring in outfield help this winter.

Mike Morse can play there. Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez have spent their careers in the outfield.

But if the Mariners are going to have a good 2013 season, it will almost certainly mean that Seattle has seen a return to form by center fielder Franklin Gutierrez.

He has missed huge patches of time due to illness and injury, but he seems to be closer to the healthy player he was in 2009, his first in Seattle, when he seemed on his way to becoming a star.

He played a month in winter ball this offseason and came to FanFest the final weekend of January feeling good about his future in Seattle.

"That was my offseason, just to play winter ball for about a month," Gutierrez said. "And I did pretty good. I just went to gain my confidence back and prove I can play almost every day again. So I'm very happy for that. Now I'm feeling good and getting ready to get to spring training and start working again.

"It's not a secret, what's been happening the last couple years. Now I'm just focusing on trying to stay healthy, obviously. I think winter ball really helped because I hadn't played like that in a long time."

Thanks to a torn pectoral muscle, the first half of the 2012 season was a wash, and once he did return, he was able to play only a couple of weeks before a concussion cut another two months off his season.

"I'm trying to keep all the bad things behind me," he said. "I don't want to think about anything bad right now."
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