by Matt Leland / Jacksonville Suns
Every team, even a young squad like the Double-A Jacksonville Suns, needs someone who has been around the block, a veteran to provide perspective when things are going well and calm when things aren’t.
The Suns may have lost one of their veteran leaders for the foreseeable future when the organization promoted infielder Chris Gutierrez from Jacksonville to Triple-A New Orleans on Wednesday. Gutierrez possessed the most professional experience of any Suns player at the time of his promotion.
“I’ve been playing a long time, and [the Suns] are kind of young for being a Double-A team,” Gutierrez said shortly before his promotion to New Orleans. “We’ve got a lot of 21 and 22 year olds….they should have no problem coming to me and asking me something or how things work.”
Gutierrez began his career in the Toronto Blue Jays organization back in 2005, out of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. The young infielder began what is currently a nine-year career in the minors, reaching as high as Triple-A Syracuse for the Jays before making stops in both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels organizations.
The right-handed hitter finally landed in the then-Florida Marlins organization in 2011, spending parts of both that season and 2012 with Jacksonville while also making stops with the New Orleans Zephyrs during both campaigns.
2013, however, has proven to be a different kind of season for Gutierrez, who saw his role change to that of a veteran bat off the bench instead of an everyday starter.
“I’ve been an everyday player my entire nine-year career,” Gutierrez said. “This year I’m more of a role player, coming off the bench. I’ve just got to not get frustrated with having a bad game or a bad at-bat, and know that my work is going its way.
“I’m learning right now…You can only take so many swings in a day where you’re fresh. I think the work you do in the cage helps. I think the biggest key is not to waste the at-bat.”
Now in New Orleans, Gutierrez may have the chance to tell his Zephyrs teammtes about the talent in Jacksonville, which is approaching becoming one of the best assemblages of pure skill in recent memory. Outfield prospects like Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick have Gutierrez, a nine-year veteran who has witnessed plenty of good players, optimistic about the future of the organization he’s called home for the past three seasons.
“They’re pretty special players,” Gutierrez said of Yelich and Marisnick. “I’ve seen a lot of guys play. I played with J.P. Arencibia…Travis Snider…Mark Trumbo, so I’ve seen of lot of good players. Yelich is very, very special. He’s on a different level than everybody else.”
Gutierrez now has a chance to carve out something special for himself and take advantage of his third promotion to the highest level in minor league baseball. Although he is no longer on the Suns roster, the man Jacksonville manager Andy Barkett called the team’s “rock” has undoubtedly left an impact one the players still donning the black, white and gold.