It was a just a small step Saturday for Mariners outfielder Ben Gamel, but it was a step in the right direction that, just maybe, can get him pointed toward a strong finish over the season’s final three weeks.
Gamel had two hits in a 14-3 romp over the Oakland Athletics after going just 1-for-16 in his first eight games since the Mariners acquired him from the New York Yankees in an Aug. 31 trade for two minor-league pitchers.
"I watched some video a few days ago," he said. "I’ve been working on some stuff. That was definitely the most comfortable I’ve felt at the plate.
"My pre-setup, my hands were getting way too high. I just got them back to where they needed to go."
Gamel, 24, was picked as the International League player of the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre one day before the trade. Not surprisingly, the Mariners are taking a long look at him this month to assess his potential as an everyday player.
"I don’t think he’s comfortable yet," manager Scott Servais said. "You want players to come in as get as comfortable as they can as quickly as they can. It usually helps if you get a couple of hits. You relax."
Gamel admits he’s been pressing.
"I wasn’t losing my mind," he said, "but I was definitely trying to do a little too much. Trying to go get the ball instead of letting it come to me. Stuff like that.
"In baseball, everyone is very routine-oriented. Just getting my routine (set) over here, and being more familiar with everyone. It’s going to take time.
"I didn’t expect to come in here right away and be everyone’s best friend. But I think, little by little, I’m getting more comfortable with everyone and vice versa."
Gamel batted .308 at Scranton-Wilkes-Barre with a .365 on-base percentage and 19 stolen bases in 116 games. His skill set provides the Mariners with a possible long-term fit atop their lineup.
"I like the way he plays," Servais said. "He’s certainly added some interesting things — athleticism to the outfield. We haven’t seen the best of Ben Gamel yet, but we’ll give a shot."
With Triple-A Tacoma eliminated from the Pacific Coast League playoffs, the Mariners are expected to add at least three players prior Monday’s series opener against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
"It’s just a small number of guys," Servais said. "We’ll make sure they get there before we (make an announcement). I’m anxious to see them, and we’ll see if get an opportunity for them to play."
Three likely additions, each of whom is already on the 40-man roster:
***Right-handed pitcher Cody Martin, who is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 20 innings over seven games in three previous recalls. He provides a long man for the bullpen and, if necessary, a spot starter.
Martin, 27, was 10-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 25 games, including 20 starts, for the Rainiers.
***First baseman/designated hitter Dan Vogelbach, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a July 20 trade. A left-handed hitter, he looms as a replacement next year for pending free agent Adam Lind.
Vogelbach, 23, batted .292 this season with 23 homers and 96 RBIs in 133 games for Tacoma and Triple-A Iowa. He also had a .417 on-base percentage and a .505 slugging percentage. He has never played in the big leagues.
***Infielder Mike Freeman, who was 2-for-6 in two games over two previous brief recalls after being acquired Aug. 2 from Arizona in a waiver claim. He provides the roster with another utility infielder and a left-handed bat.
Freeman, 29, batted .314 with a .385 OBP this season in 114 games at Tacoma and Triple-A Reno.
The Mariners are also considering a move to return lefty Wade LeBlanc to the roster. LeBlanc, 32, was 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 11 games, including eight starts, before being designated Aug. 25 for assignment.
When LeBlanc cleared waivers, he was sent Sept. 4 to Tacoma on an outright assignment. Those assignments typically require a player to spent 10 days in the minors before he can return to the big leagues.
That no longer applies to LeBlanc because Tacoma’s season is over, but the Mariners currently have no openings on their 40-man roster. They would need to make a corresponding space-clearing move in order to add LeBlanc.
Thanks to a big boost from right fielder Tyler O’Neill, Double-A Jackson opens the best-of-five Southern League championship series Monday at home against Mississippi (Braves).
O’Neill went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer Saturday when Generals won 8-2 at Montgomery (Rays) for a 3-1 series victory in the North Division finals. O’Neill hit three homers and went 7-for-15 with six RBIs in the four games.
It was one year ago Monday — Sept. 12, 2015 — that Nelson Cruz achieved a career high when he hit his 41st home run in a 7-2 victory over Colorado at Safeco Field. He would finish the season with 44.
Cruz leads the Mariners this season with 35 homers.
Tacoma manager Pat Listach turns 49 on Monday. The Rainiers were eliminated Saturday from the Pacific Coast League playoffs by El Paso after winning the Pacific Conference Northern Division pennant…since Aug. 1, when he became the Mariners’ closer, rookie Edwin Diaz leads the majors with 15 saves…the Mariners entered Sunday with a club-record 73 homers against left-handed pitchers. The previous record was 70 in 1997.
The Mariners open a three-game series against the Angels at 7:05 p.m. Monday in Anaheim, Calif. Rookie left-hander Ariel Miranda (3-1 with a 4.79 ERA) will face Los Angeles right-hander Ricky Nolasco (5-13, 5.90).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners