For outfielder Ben Gamel, the opportunity so long delayed finally arrived in late April. Now it’s up to him: Can he translate his minor league success to the big leagues?
Gamel hit .288/.419/.390 through 18 games at Triple-A Tacoma when recalled on April 26 after the Mariners jettisoned the underperforming Leonys Martin and saw Mitch Haniger sidelined by a strained oblique.
Mariners manager Scott Servais signaled plans for Gamel, a lefthanded batter, by starting him the first night against Tigers lefthander Daniel Norris.
“He’ll have good at-bats for us,” Servais said. “He finds a way to battle and fight even against good lefthanded pitching. He’s always done that.”
Gamel, 24, responded a day later by driving in the winning run in the ninth inning of a 2-1 victory against Detroit.
“Last year,” Gamel said, “I was probably pressing a lot when I was up here, so I’m just trying to take a deep breath and let the game come to me instead of trying to go out there and do way too much.”
It was Gamel’s upside potential that prompted the Mariners to acquire him from the Yankees last August when they traded righthanders Juan De Paula and Jio Orozo to New York. Gamel had just been named the MVP of the Triple-A International League, but the Yankees, who drafted him in the 10th round in 2010 out of high school in Jacksonville, had a surplus of talented young outfielders.
It looked like the break that Gamel needed. The Mariners wanted to get younger and more athletic, and his ability to play all three outfield positions, along with his on-base skills, seemed an ideal fit.
While the righthanded-hitting Guillermo Heredia claimed the Mariners’ reserve outfielder job with a strong spring, Gamel soon got his chance in Seattle.
— Bob Dutton covers the Mariners for the Tacoma News Tribune