SEATTLE -- Things haven't come easily for Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez this season. He spent much of Spring Training and the first six weeks of the season on the disabled list with stomach problems and has fought to regain his form once back in uniform.
A 3-for-22 slump the past six games has dropped his batting average to .197 and he has just one home run and eight RBIs in 117 at-bats for the season. After looking like he was making progress, the Gold Glove outfielder has hit just .175 in June with a .200 slugging percentage, with two doubles his only extra-base hits in 80 at-bats this month.
Yet the Mariners are 21-13 in games he's appeared this year, 18-12 when he's started. So manager Eric Wedge gave the 28-year-old Venezuelan a day off to rest Tuesday, with rookie Greg Halman in center, but Gutierrez remains a critical part of the Mariners' plans going forward.
"I think he is improving," Wedge said. "It's been a very unusual year for him, through no fault of his own. Now we need to see what we've actually been seeing a little more of the last four or five games, where he's staying in at-bats longer, making better outs, utilizing the middle of the field more, and he's had a few timely hits for us.
"Those are the indicators that he's heading in the right direction."
Wedge is a firm believer that progress is often last seen in the box scores, while the real work toward improvement comes in preparation, batting practice and the approach taken at the plate in games in different situations.
"Yeah, he's been a little bit better," Wedge said. "But we need everybody to do that. I don't want it to be Groundhog Day. I want to see improvement. It may not get results, but I want to see adjustments, see us do a better job in hitter's counts and better job fighting when we're behind in the count."