The club says Gutierrez won't need surgery and will be able to begin baseball activities in about four weeks. He will be re-evaluated on a week-to-week basis after that. Given that he'll need to regain his strength and timing, it's fair to assume it'll be at least six weeks before he's ready to play in a best-case scenario.
The Mariners open regular-season play in one month, facing the A's in Tokyo on March 28-29. They'll then resume the regular season on April 6 in Oakland.
Manager Eric Wedge said there was "considerable concern" before the official verdict was received from Dr. Khalfayan.
Gutierrez, 29, reported to camp two weeks ago in excellent condition, having put on more than 20 pounds after fighting with digestive issues for the previous 18 months. He missed most of Spring Training and started last season on the disabled list after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, then went back on the DL after injuring his oblique muscle in the final month.
The 2010 Gold Glove winner hit just .224 in 322 at-bats, with the illness robbing much of his strength and resulting in just one home run, 19 RBIs and a .273 slugging percentage.
But when Gutierrez got to camp this month, he checked in at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and said he felt the best he's been since 2009, when he batted .283 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs with a .425 slugging percentage in his first season in Seattle.
Wedge said the injury isn't very common for baseball players, and he wasn't going to speculate on the difficulty of returning from such a problem.
"We haven't gone down that road yet," he said. "Obviously we will right away as soon as we get a solid diagnosis, but we haven't even allowed ourselves to go there yet."
Michael Saunders, Casper Wells and Trayvon Robinson are the primary center-field options on the 40-man roster. Veteran infielder Chone Figgins played center field in Wednesday's intrasquad game as Wedge began looking at the possibilities.
"We have Figgins slotted to play some outfield anyway," Wedge said. "Obviously depending on what happens with 'Gut,' we'll have to alter our plans a little bit. But versus a year ago, we've got options. We've got three or four guys we feel can play out there."