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Franklin Gutierrez hit .349 in the Venezuelan Winter League

Jan 2, 2013, 8:31 PM EDT

gutierrez getty Getty Images

Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez appeared in only 40 games last season due to head and heel injuries, and he batted just .260/.309/.420 when he wasn’t on the disabled list. But there may be reason for a hint of optimism about what’s ahead in 2013.

Gutierrez is — first and foremost — healthy. He hasn’t experienced any sort of concussion-related symptoms over the past several months and his plantar fasciitis is seemingly under control. Then there’s his promising performance in the Venezuelan Winter League, which recently wrapped up its regular season schedule.

According to beat writer Greg Johns of MLB.com, the 29-year-old hit .349/.411/.523 with three homers, six doubles and 19 RBI in 22 games for Leones del Caracas while playing his usual brand of elite-level outfield defense. He was 8-for-15 in his final three games and finished with a total of 13 runs scored.

If Gutierrez proves to be a reliable regular this year in Seattle, the M’s can shift Michael Saunders to right field. Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay will presumably share left field, with Casper Wells providing overall depth.

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