Say this for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto: He’s still swinging and trying to find the right combination.
The Mariners acquired outfielder Ben Gamel on Wednesday from the New York Yankees in a trade for two minor-league pitchers. Gamel, 24, is expected to join the Mariners in time for Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
"He’s done what you can do in Triple-A," Dipoto said, "and he deserves an opportunity. He does a lot of things well. He can play all three outfield spots. Everything about his game from a tool perspective is average to above.
"The one thing he doesn’t bring is gaudy power. It’s a contact, gaps bat. He can steal bases. He’s a nice piece for us. He’s optionable. He’s young, and he’s athletic. A lot of things we’ve talked about since last September."
Gamel is a left-handed hitter who batted .308 this season with a .365 on-base percentage in 116 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was chosen Tuesday as the player of the year in the International League.
"It’s his time," Dipoto said. "He’s not a guy we anticipate is going to be a 30-homer corner man, but he can do a lot of things well. And he’s got a skill set that fits our major-league club."
The Mariners acquired Gamel after claiming him on waivers, which left the Yankees with the option of either revoking his waivers (and keeping him on their 40-man roster) or working out a trade with the Mariners.
New York will receive right-handed pitchers who had been pitching in the Arizona Rookie League: Jio Orozco, 19, and Juan De Paula, 18.
"Both are long-term projection guys," Dipoto said. "Both guys have shown power stuff at times. It’s just the consistency that needs to come with getting through a long development process. Both of them have major-league potential."
The timing of the trade came just prior to Wednesday’s deadline for players to be eligible for postseason with their new club.
The rules also permit clubs to expand their rosters on Thursday from 25 to as many as 40 players. The Mariners are expected to make at least two other moves prior to Friday’s game against the Angels at Safeco Field.
Catcher Jesus Sucre is likely to be recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, and reliever Evan Scribner is expected to be activated from the 60-day disabled list. Scribner is currently pitching at Tacoma on a rehab assignment.
CRUZ EXPECTS TO PLAY FRIDAY
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz missed a second straight game Wednesday because of an injured left hand but expects to play Friday against the Angels.
Cruz suffered the injury Sunday on a swing in his first at-bat in Chicago. He finished that game but had trouble gripping the bat in Monday’s series opener against the Rangers. He didn’t play in the final two games against the Rangers.
"I swung through a change-up," Cruz said, "and it was weird. (The pain) started here (near the elbow) and it went down and around my hand. I had inflammation in the tendon. I couldn’t feel my bottom two fingers. They were shut down."
"The first day (Monday), I just swung the bat with two fingers (and the thumb). Tuesday was better, and today it’s definitely much stronger."
Just not strong enough to play.
"Talking to the doctors who saw him here and our doctors back home," manager Scott Servais said, "going back and forth, we thought it best to give him another day.
"It was hard (Tuesday) not putting him in there, and it’s tough today as well. But we’ve got to do the best thing for Cruzie. He’s a little bit better, but the grip strength is not where it needs to be yet on the bat."
Cruz leads the Mariners with 32 homers while batting .280 with 79 RBIs in 127 games.
Left-hander James Paxton’s troublesome middle fingernail showed noticeable improvement Wednesday after tearing in the third inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Rangers.
"I put the nail-hardener on there," he said, "and it’s feeling pretty good. It’s a fake nail, but it’s not an acrylic nail. It’s some powdered stuff with some glue. They thought this would be my best option, so we’re going to give it a try.
"We’re going to let it sit, dry out and harden for the next couple of days. Then get back to it. Hopefully, it stays on, and I can battle my way through the rest of the season."
Tentative plans call for Paxton to throw a regular bullpen workout Friday in anticipation of a start Monday against the Rangers at Safeco Field.
"I’m expecting him to make his start," Servais said. "The big thing is whether he can use all of his pitches. (On Tuesday) night, he was kind of limited in what he could do, pitch-wise. He also didn’t have the velo that we’re used to seeing."
Paxton battled fingernail problems last season, but had been trouble-free this season until Tuesday.
"It’s been extremely frustrating," he said. "Obviously, I don’t want this problem for myself or the team. It’s just a pain to deal with, but I can’t control it.
"I’m just going to keep trying to find a permanent solution so we’re not dealing with it in future years."
HEADING TO THE FALL LEAGUE
Two players currently on the Mariners’ big-league roster are among the organization’s six assignments to the Arizona Fall League: outfielder Guillermo Heredia and reliever Dan Altavilla.
They will join left-hander Luiz Gohara, right-handers Emilio Pagan and Dylan Unsworth, catcher Tyler Marlette, shortstop Drew Jackson and outfielder Tyler O’Neill on the Peoria Javelinas.
Heredia was assigned to the club as a "taxi squad" player, which means he is only eligible to play on Wednesday and Saturdays.
The Arizona Fall League is operated by Major League Baseball and consists of six clubs in the Phoenix area. Each club receives players from five MLB organizations.
The Javelinas play at Peoria Stadium, which is the Mariners’ spring home, and are also stocked by players from Baltimore, Cincinnati, San Diego and Tampa Bay.
The Fall League, now in its 25th season, bills itself as a "finishing school" for top prospects. Clubs are only permitted to send one player who hasn’t yet played at Double-A or higher.
The six clubs play a 32-game schedule, which begins Oct. 11 and runs through a championship game on Nov. 19. The annual Fall Stars Game is Nov. 7.
Double-A Jackson swept the major awards in the Southern League.
Outfielder Tyler O’Neill is the player of the year; left-hander Ryan Yarbrough is the pitcher of the year; and Daren Brown is the manager of the year.
It marked the first time in 25 years, and just the third time in league history, that one club swept all three awards.
The others: Greenville (Braves) in 1991 with Ryan Klesko, Mark Wohlers and Chris Chambliss; and Nashville (Yankees) in 1980 with Steve Balboni, Andy McGaffigan and Stump Merrill.
An update on O’Neill’s triple-crown quest through Tuesday: he ranked second in batting (seven points behind) and homers (one behind) and led in RBIs (by 14) with six games remaining.
Lefty Michael Suarez and right-hander Carlos Hernandez, a pair of Venezuelans, combined Tuesday on a four-hit shutout as Peoria advanced in the Arizona Rookie League playoffs with a 4-0 victory over the Cubs.
Peoria advanced to a one-game semifinal Wednesday against the Reds. The winner will play Thursday against the Angels/Royals winner.
Suarez, 21, gave up three hits in seven innings before Hernandez, 20, closed out the victory. Peoria scored all four runs in the fourth inning. Gareth Morgan had a two-run single, and Brayan Hernandez had a two-run triple.
***The Mariners’ club in the Dominican Summer League completed a two-game sweep over the Rockies in a best-of-three series with a 1-0 victory in 13 innings.
Anjul Hernandez, Frank Encarnacion and Arony Cruz combined to limit the Rockies to four hits while striking out 15 and walking one. Hernandez pitched the first 7 2/3 innings.
The Mariners won the game on Carlos Vargas’ one-out, walk-off single. They will play the Red Sox No. 1 team in the best-of-three semifinals.
***Triple-A Tacoma and Hi-A Bakersfield moved closer Tuesday to clinching postseason berths. The Rainiers reduced their magic number to three with six games remaining, while the Blaze’s magic number is two with six to go.
If Tacoma and Bakersfield qualify, all seven of the Mariners’ affiliates will have reached postseason.
It was eight years ago Thursday — Sept. 1, 2008 — that Adrian Beltre, then with the Mariners, became the fourth player in franchise history to hit for the cycle when he went 5-for-6 in a 12-6 victory at Texas.
Beltre also the first player in franchise history to have five hits and score five runs in a game.
No Mariner has hit for the cycle since Beltre. The three previous players to achieve the feat were Jay Buhner in 1993 vs. Oakland; Alex Rodriguez in 1997 at Detroit; and John Olerud in 2001 at San Diego.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday before opening a six-game homestand at 7:10 p.m. Friday with the first of three weekend games against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
Rookie left-hander Ariel Miranda (1-1 with a 5.70 ERA) will face Angels lefty Brett Oberholtzer (1-0, 7.00). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners