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Chavez filling unexpected role for Mariners

SEATTLE -- When looking for an unsung hero for the Mariners through the first three months of the season, Endy Chavez would be a good place to start.

The 35-year-old outfielder has hit .283 in 54 games before Wednesday while filling the leadoff role and playing excellent defense after signing with Seattle as a Minor League free agent late in Spring Training.

With Franklin Gutierrez's injury issues, Chavez has stepped into the void and recorded at least one hit in 35 of 41 starts while putting up a .353 on-base percentage. He hit just .203 with a .236 on-base percentage in 64 games for the Orioles last year.

"He's done a nice job for us," manager Eric Wedge said. "With Gutierrez not being here and Michael Saunders' struggles, he's picked up the slack for us leading off. It's been a big help for us."

Chavez might see his playing time diminish with the addition of Dustin Ackley to the outfield mix and the eventual return of Michael Morse, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained quad. But he has proved a valuable part of the Mariners' mix this year, and his 184 at-bats entering Wednesday were already his most in all but two seasons since 2007.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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