GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Franklin Gutierrez got another chance from the team that gave him his first one in professional baseball.
Gutierrez turned 34 Tuesday, a day after finalizing a $2.6 million, one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Los Angeles signed the Venezuelan outfielder as an amateur in 2000.
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”I started here.” Gutierrez said Tuesday as he prepared to take the field for the Dodgers’ first full-squad workout. ”I’ve been traded twice, been around a long time. And now I’m back here.”
Gutierrez was traded to Cleveland in April 2004 for Milton Bradley. He made his big league debut for the Indians the following year and also played for Seattle (2009-13 and 2015-16).
”When you get started, you think you can play for 20 years,” he said. ”But to be here now after more than 10 years, it’s amazing.”
A Gold Glove winner in 2010, Gutierrez was diagnosed in 2014 with ankylosing spondylitis – inflammation of the spine – and irritable bowel syndrome.
”I took the year off,” he said. ”I had to take care of my body. Three years ago, I was about to retire because I couldn’t handle anything. In the beginning, it was painful in my whole body. Bad joints, stiffness. It was really bad. I was about to retire. Then I decided to give the medicine time to work on my body. That’s why I took a year off in 2014. And it works. I decided to keep doing my thing and prepare better. I had to be strong, strong in my mind and strong enough to create a new body. Life doesn’t always happen exactly the way you want.””
He started 2015 at Triple-A Tacoma, came up to the Mariners in June and hit .292 with 15 homers in 59 games with Seattle. He batted .246 in 98 games last year, when his 12 home runs against left-handers were second in the AL.
”He’s a lefty-killer,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who remembers Gutierrez when both were prospects during spring training in 2003. ”He’ll get opportunities in that regard. He can defend. We’ll move him around and see how he handles it. Right now, we see him against left-handed pitching.”
A center fielder earlier in his career, Gutierrez likely will see more time in left and right this season.
”He’s here for a certain purpose,” Roberts said. ”That’s to play in the corners, hit lefties and – when he’s not in the lineup – be a veteran bat off the bench.”
For Gutierrez, just a chance is enough. He can earn $400,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $100,000 each for 400 and 450, and $200,000 for 500.
”Obviously I’m not the same guy I was when I was 20,” Gutierrez said. ”Now, I still do my job but I have to be careful with my body. I start doing a lot of preparation before I go out there, a lot of stretching. When you’re young, you eat whatever you want and you still feel good. It affects you later in life. Even going early to bed, getting your rest, that’s important.”
Notes: Starting his second season as Dodgers manager, Roberts addressed the team before its first full-squad workout this spring training ”We talked a lot about building on last year,” he said. ”I think the process and what we did last year was right. .1B Adrian Gonzalez was held out of hitting and defensive drills Tuesday because of an elbow injury. He expects to be limited for a projected two weeks but to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. ”He was pretty adamant about that,” Roberts said. ”He’ll play in the WBC.” … 2B Chase Utley can earn $500,000 in performance bonuses: $62,500 each for 40, 60, 80 and 100 games; $62,500 apiece for 400 and 450 plate appearan ces; and $125,000 for 500 plate appearances.