Outfielder Mitch Haniger, barring a setback, should return Saturday from the disabled list. Sunday at the latest. But whenever he returns, this much is clear.
Haniger will reclaim his job as the Mariners’ full-time right fielder.
"We’re not going to mess with that too much," manager Scott Servais confirmed prior to Friday’s series opener against Toronto at Safeco Field. That’s the plan, understanding that he’s still going to need a day off here and there."
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"Dyson has been phenomenal defensively," Servais said. "Offensively, some nights better than others. The two young guys, Gamel and Heredia, have been more consistent offensively.
"Looking at matchups, it’s a good rotation to have. I feel comfortable playing those guys. You can play all four of them in center field, if you had to. It’s a good spot to be in."
Haniger, 26, was batting .342 with four homers and 16 RBIs through 21 games when he suffered a strained right oblique muscle on April 25 in Detroit. He began a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday at Triple-A Tacoma.
Plans called for Haniger to play all nine innings Friday in right field for the Rainiers as the final test in his rehab process. He spent two of his three previous games as the designated hitter.
"We’ll see how he comes out of (Friday’s) game," Servais said, "before we make a final decision."
The Mariners recalled Gamel from Tacoma in response to Haniger’s injury. Gamel recently became the club’s primarily leadoff hitter when shortstop Jean Segura landed the disabled list because of a high right ankle sprain.
"His on-base percentage against right-handed pitchers is close to .420," Servais said. "That’s a phenomenal number for a young player, and he’s hung in there OK against the lefties. He’s been very consistent."
"The one thing about Ben’s game is he’s a very good situational hitter. You’ve seen multiple times when he gets a sacrifice fly or moves guys over."
Gamel has been the right fielder in Haniger’s absence but will now likely share time in left field with Heredia. When Dyson plays, he figures to be the center fielder. Heredia will split time with Gamel in left and Dyson in center.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners