It’s a sign of Guillermo Heredia’s growing status that he drew a start Thursday against Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander when the Mariners closed out their three-game series at Comerica Park.
It was Heredia’s sixth straight start in left field, and came after he had two hits in each of his two previous games.
"Getting regular at-bats makes me feel more comfortable," he said, "and my confidence is at a higher level. I’m going to keep playing hard and see where it takes me."
Heredia, 26, is 8-for-25 in those six starts, which continues an unexpected surge at the plate that he first flashed this spring in winning a roster spot. His overall average is up to .308.
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"As I’ve said from the beginning of spring training," manager Scott Servais said, "he’s shortened up his swing. He’s been a really nice fit for us. He’s getting an opportunity to play, and he’s taking it and running with it."
A series of factors created the opportunity for Heredia.
First, center fielder Leonys Martin stumbled so badly over the first few weeks that he was designated for assignment. Then, right fielder Mitch Haniger suffered a strained oblique muscle that forced him to the disabled list.
Even so, Servais had lineup alternatives against Verlander but opted for Heredia in left field and versatile Taylor Motter, also a right-handed hitter, at first base while keeping Dan Vogelbach and Danny Valencia on the bench.
Servais offered a simple reason for starting Heredia: "He’s swinging the bat very well."
SEAGER IN LINEUP
Third baseman Kyle Seager went 2-for-4 in returning to the starting lineup for the first time since April 21. He made just one pinch-hitting appearance, with two innings of defense, over the previous four games because of a sore right hip.
Seager’s return enabled Motter to shift to first base, which meant Servais opted to keep Vogelbach, a left-handed hitter, on the bench against Verlander.
By winning 8-0 on Wednesday, the Mariners achieved a rarity: It was only the third time in the last 40 years that a team posted a shutout victory after giving up at least 19 runs in the previous game — as the Mariners did in Tuesday's 19-9 loss.
The most recent occurrence was also at Comerica Park. On Sept. 9, 2004, Kansas City beat Detroit 26-5 in the first game of a doubleheader before the Tigers won 8-0 in the nightcap.
At least one fortunate soul witnessed both sets of turnarounds.
Three things to note heading into Friday’s pitching matchup between left-hander Ariel Miranda and Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco:
***Miranda has never faced the Indians. Carrasco is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA in four career games against the Mariners.
***No current Indians have ever faced Miranda.
***Robinson Cano is 6-for-14 in his career against Carrasco with two doubles and a homer. Kyle Seager is 2-for-6 with a homer, but Jarrod Dyson is 3-for-16 with five strikeouts, and Danny Valencia is hitless in eight at-bats.
Reliever Steve Cishek could be nearing a return from the disabled list.
Cishek was scheduled to pitch again Thursday for after working a one-two-three inning Wednesday in a rehab appearance for Double-A Arkansas in a 6-5 loss at Tulsa (Dodgers) in 10 innings.
Back-to-back appearances typically are the final step for relievers on a rehab assignment.
Cishek threw seven of 11 pitches for strikes Wednesday and recorded one strikeout. It was his fourth rehab outing and easily his best. He is recovering from October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
***Right-hander Rob Whalen was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. He was sidelined in spring training by shoulder inflammation.
It was 16 years ago Friday — April 28, 2001 — that the Mariners set two major-league records in an 8-5 victory at Chicago.
Kazuhiro Sasaki pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 13th save, a record for April. By winning, the Mariners improved to 20-4, which set a record for victories in April.
The Mariners and Indians open a three-game weekend series at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time Friday at Progressive Field when lefty Ariel Miranda (1-2 with a 4.35 ERA) opposes Cleveland righty Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 1.65).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network, including mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv).
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners