SEATTLE -- A lot of young hitters get pigeon-holed into platoon roles early in their careers, with managers preferring to match up against opposite-handed pitchers when possible. But Mariners rookie outfielder Ben Gamel has avoided that label for one simple reason.The left-handed-swinging Gamel has hit southpaws so well it's been
SEATTLE -- A lot of young hitters get pigeon-holed into platoon roles early in their careers, with managers preferring to match up against opposite-handed pitchers when possible. But Mariners rookie outfielder Ben Gamel has avoided that label for one simple reason.
The left-handed-swinging Gamel has hit southpaws so well it's been impossible to keep him out of the lineup. The 25-year-old has been Seattle's best hitter against lefties with a .356/.375/.542 line in 59 at-bats, which is better even than his .319/.386/.431 production in 188 at-bats against righties going into Saturday night's game against the A's.
That .356 batting average ranks second among MLB left-handers vs. left-handed pitching with at least 60 plate appearances, trailing only the .364 average of Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr.
Gamel, one of the American League's top rookie performers in the first half, sees the pitching matchups in simple fashion.
"I look at it like the same matchup," he said. "I try to get a pitch I can handle and put a good swing on it. I don't know. We had this guy that I grew up with when I was 8 or 9 years old named Clay Daniel and he always threw me left-handed BP. When I was 8 or 9, he'd always flip in sliders and curveballs just to let me get a look at it."
Daniel was a scout for the Angels who lived in the same area when Gamel and his brother, Mat, were growing up in Neptune Beach, Fla. Mat is six years older than Ben and played for the Brewers from 2008-12.
"We're both left-handed and we grew up hitting left-handers," Gamel said. "It's definitely something I take pride in. Any way I can help this team. If it's hitting lefties, righties, whatever."
Gamel said the chance to play almost every day since being called up to fill in for an injured Mitch Haniger in late April has helped him keep his timing at the plate. He figures the whole season has been an incredible learning experience after spending seven years in the Minors in the Yankees system.
"This year has been a big adjustment for me, getting in the weight room and stuff," he said. "I'm getting older and my body is starting to feel it a little more, so I've definitely got to stay on top of it. I watch the veterans here and how they go about their business. I just try to mirror them."
That includes in the batter's box, where he spends considerable time focusing on how fellow lefty Robinson Cano conducts himself.
"I watch his swing a lot," Gamel said. "I don't know if there is a prettier swing than his, to be completely honest with you. I definitely watch him and the kind of pitches he's laying off of and swinging at. He's a great one to watch."
• Shawn O'Malley made his first rehab start for the Mariners' Arizona Rookie League team on Friday and went 2-for-2 with a triple, three walks and three runs as the designated hitter. O'Malley, who played 113 games for Seattle as a utility player the past two years, has been sidelined since having surgery on his shoulder late in Spring Training.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [