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Gamel to get more left field playing time

Outfielder starting to heat up following slow start; Iwakuma progressing in shoulder recovery
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- With Dee Gordon moving to second base, Ben Gamel is going to get more consistent playing time in left field going forward for the Mariners. And the 26-year-old from Florida is, conveniently, heating up at just the right time.

Gamel got off to a slow start after missing most of Spring Training and the first few weeks of the season with a strained right oblique, then platooning with Guillermo Heredia in left field. But Heredia is taking over for Gordon in center field, which means Gamel will find his name penciled into left field on a regular basis now.

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SEATTLE -- With Dee Gordon moving to second base, Ben Gamel is going to get more consistent playing time in left field going forward for the Mariners. And the 26-year-old from Florida is, conveniently, heating up at just the right time.

Gamel got off to a slow start after missing most of Spring Training and the first few weeks of the season with a strained right oblique, then platooning with Guillermo Heredia in left field. But Heredia is taking over for Gordon in center field, which means Gamel will find his name penciled into left field on a regular basis now.

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After batting .121 in 12 games in April and just .172 through his first 23 games, Gamel has gone 7-for-15 over his last four starts, including a 2-for-4 night with a double and his first home run in Saturday's 7-2 win over the Tigers. His two-run single kickstarted Seattle's five-run rally in the seventh inning of Friday's 5-4 win and his average now is up to .233.

Video: DET@SEA: Gamel puts Mariners on board with 2-run hit

Manager Scott Servais noted that Gamel has been one of the Mariners' unluckier hitters and expects things to even out for him going forward. Which is interesting, because last season, Gamel had some extreme good fortune in his initial months before the law of averages saw his numbers regress.

Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a useful metric to show if a players' batting average is being boosted or lowered by luck and/or opposing defenses. Gamel's BABIP in his 66 first-half games last year with an extremely high .422, which helped him post an impressive .323 batting average in that span.

No player sustains a BABIP that high for long and, indeed, Gamel returned to earth with a .263 BABIP in 68 second-half games while posting a .227 average. The result was a full season average of .275 average and .340 BABIP in 509 at-bats with 11 homers and 59 RBIs, which is solid production for a rookie.

Even after his uptick this past week, Gamel's BABIP is just .294 this season. That and other metrics give Servais reason to believe things will continue to even out in a positive fashion for the youngster if he keeps putting the bat on the ball and making solid contact.

"He got off to such a fantastic start last year when he showed up," Servais said. "We really needed him to come out gangbusters when he got here and he did. Some of those statistical things that aren't in his favor right now were way in his favor last year.

"He did cool off in the second half of the season and had no Spring Training. He needed to get going and he had a really good week, starting in Minnesota. The quality of his at-bats has been much better and he's getting a few hits on top of it. It's good to see. We need it."

Gamel knows he's been bit by some tough luck so far, but he's played long enough to know those things tend to even out both ways.

"It's definitely frustrating, but that's part of it," he said. "You still have to go out there and grind through at-bats and eventually you hope they'll start to fall. I'm really just trying to simplify things and get back on fastballs."

Worth noting
- Veteran right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma played catch on Friday and will throw a bullpen session prior to Sunday's game as he continues working back from last September's shoulder surgery.

- Since the Mariners weren't home last weekend on Mother's Day, they'll conduct a "Second Chance Mother's Day" on Sunday, with the first 10,000 moms receiving a Mariners Tote Bag. Yvette Jones of Milton, Wash., will throw out the first pitch as the Mariners' Honorary Bat Girl as part of MLB's "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" program.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Ben Gamel