February 23, 2012

Franklin Gutierrez hopes to bounce back from IBS

I really don't want to make fun of this because considering our last post where Bobby Jenks almost died from a back condition, but Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome is certainly an odd story. For the last two years it hurt his play out on the field but he's looking for a turnaround season this year.

Gutierrez, who turned 29 on Tuesday, is ecstatic to have emerged from the painful nightmare of the last year and a half.

He was branded an emerging American League star after a 2009 season in which he hit .283 with 18 homers, and according to advanced statistics was the best defensive outfielder in baseball.

But halfway through the 2010 season — one in which he earned a Gold Glove, but declined precipitously across the board, statistically — Gutierrez got his first pangs of stomach distress.

It turned out to be a debilitating illness that confounded doctors for months before he was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in late April. But even then, it took awhile before Gutierrez figured out how to manage the condition, and by that time, 2011 was a long-lost season.

Gutierrez hit just .224 in 92 games, but it was an exceedingly weak .224, including just one homer and a .273 slugging percentage.

As the season progressed, Gutierrez learned, through trial and error, what he could eat and couldn't eat — and when he could eat. Late-night snacks, for the most part, were out. Doctors settled on effective meds. And by this past offseason, Gutierrez was feeling good again — good enough to work out intensively all winter. He left for home in Venezuela weighing 183 at the end of last season (after getting down to a low of 175), and returned this month at a muscular 200.

I really do hope he bounces back from it. I got the chance to watch his great 2009 season, and watching him in the outfield in person is a real treat. He was really among the best outfielders in the majors - his range was absolutely insane.

If he can return to form the Seattle Mariners will still suck, but at least there will be somebody decent in the lineup.

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