Death to Flying Things to remain at The Safe

If there’s one thing this franchise knows, it’s how to pick center fielders…

Griffey, Cameron, Gutierrez…

From his parents, Franklin and Leida – who took him to games and bought him his first glove – to Seattle hitting coach Alan Cockrell – who suggested a change in his stance that made him a more dangerous hitter – Franklin Gutierrez said a lot of “thank yous” on Friday.

He had more than 20 million reasons.

The man Mariners fans watched transform from a little-known platoon player in Cleveland to a budding star in Seattle, Gutierrez signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract extension that included a club option for a fifth season.

“A guy who can play center field and hit 20 home runs, that’s a special player,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We respect Franklin for his abilities. We respect him for what he is as a person.”

Acquired in the trade that transformed the Mariners last winter, Gutierrez responded by leading the majors in outfield putouts last year while setting career highs at the plate, batting .283 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 153 games.

“What you have to like about Franklin is his desire to get better,” Zduriencik said. “As far back as 2001, we tried to get him in Milwaukee. We thought he’d take off as a hitter, and we’re excited about the player we think he’ll become.”

Gutierrez, 26, said the trade that made him a Mariner changed his career.

“I had a vision of what I wanted, and I worked hard for it. To have people believe in you, I appreciated that,” he said. “We had great fans and great support, and that was important to me. About midseason last year, I realized there were fans in the outfield that were cheering for me. I worked harder for them.”

Go, Guti go!

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