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Friday, January 8, 2010
Seattle's Gutierrez gets 4-year extension news services

SEATTLE -- Franklin Gutierrez and the Seattle Mariners finalized a $20.5 million, four-year contract Friday that includes a team option for 2014, a deal that avoided salary arbitration.

"It's a great day," the 26-year-old defensive whiz said, flashing a pair of star-shaped diamonds in each earlobe. "I'm really excited. It's something that I think any player wants -- and not everybody gets.

He returned to Seattle after spending Christmas back home in Venezuela.

"My parents started crying," he said. "They told me I deserved it, because I worked hard my whole life."

The 26-year-old set career highs by hitting .283 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs last season, his first in Seattle. He also made several Gold Glove-caliber catches while playing a career-high 153 games.

"For sure, this gives more security to your life," said Gutierrez, who is married and said he may buy a condominium in Seattle with some of his new cash.

He thanked Mariners trainers for getting him through knee pain last year, and said his knees are now "great" after he chose rest instead of playing winter ball in Venezuela this offseason.

He also thanked hitting coach Alan Cockrell for making a small but substantial switch in his batting stance early last season. Gutierrez used to keep almost all of his weight on his back foot as the pitch arrived. Cockrell had Gutierrez center his weight, making him more balanced. Gutierrez said the shift allowed him to see pitches more clearly, quicken his swing -- and change his career.

"That was a huge difference for me," he said. "That gave me huge confidence."

It's all perhaps more than the surging Mariners expected when they acquired him in December 2008 from Cleveland in a trade that sent former All-Star closer J.J. Putz to the New York Mets.

"We thought Franklin would take off as an offensive player," general manager Jack Zduriencik said, noting Gutierrez was the centerpiece of a trade the GM almost made when he was an assistant with Milwaukee a couple of years ago. "I do believe the best days are ahead for this young player."

Gutierrez and Gold Glove right fielder Ichiro Suzuki give Seattle one of the baseball's best defensive outfields.

"We feel he was the best defensive center fielder in the American League last year, and he was a huge part of the success of our pitching staff leading the AL in ERA," Zduriencik said. "Offensively, his combination of speed and power is a perfect fit for our club -- and he is an outstanding person."

In 2009, Gutierrez became only the ninth player in Mariners history to have 15 homers and 15 stolen bases in a season. He led major league outfielders with 445 putouts.

"We're all excited about what this player can be," Zduriencik said.

Five Mariners remain eligible for arbitration: pitchers Felix Hernandez, David Aardsma, Mark Lowe and Brandon League, and newly acquired first baseman Casey Kotchman.

Seattle has been talking with Hernandez's representatives this winter about a long-term contract for its ace.

"It just depends on what he wants," Gutierrez said of his fellow Venezuelan. "Hopefully, we will get to have him here for a long time, too."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.