Mariners outfielder Ben Gamel is expected to begin the regular season on the disabled list after suffering a strained right oblique, as the team told reporters Monday morning. The injury will keep him out for 4-6 weeks.
Gamel was one of the Mariners’ most valuable hitters before the All-Star break last year, hitting .323/.379/.449 over his first 66 games. He cooled off significantly after the break, though, hitting .227/.262/.376 over the final 68 games and finishing the year with a .275/.322/.413 line and 11 homers in 550 plate appearances. With that said, Gamel is still just 25 years old and was playing his first full major-league season, so a late-season collision with the rookie wall was somewhat understandable.
With Gamel likely to miss the first two or three weeks of the regular season, Guillermo Heredia is set to assume an everyday outfielder role in Seattle. That shouldn’t be much of an issue, as he started 117 games last year and figured to take some at-bats away from Gamel against left-handed pitchers this year anyway. Plugging Heredia, who hit .249/.315/.337 with six homers in 426 plate appearances last year, certainly weakens the Mariners’ lineup a bit, though.
Though Seattle’s injury concerns to this point have been relatively minor — in addition to Gamel’s injury, Ryon Healy is questionable for Opening Day following hand surgery — they’ll now be putting a lot of trust in guys who will have questionable durability, as Heredia is coming off October shoulder surgery and Mitch Haniger spent two lengthy stints on the DL last year. Seeing as there are numerous free-agent outfielders who will presumably be willing to accept a part-time role still on the market — Jon Jay, Melky Cabrera, Andre Ethier, and Seth Smith, to name a few — it’s certainly conceivable that Seattle could look to add extra outfield depth in advance of Opening Day.