Rookies Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia and Mitch Haniger have played well and will be a cheap outfield for the coming seasons.
HOUSTON — As the 2017 season comes to an end, the Mariners can look at their outfield with a level of certainty and optimism for the future. It’s certainly different from a year ago, when offseason change at the position was a certainty.
On Sunday, the Mariners started rookies Ben Gamel (left field), Guillermo Heredia (center field) and Mitch Haniger (right field) in their typical look with Jarrod Dyson on the disabled list. It’s a lineup you’ll see the rest of the season and likely quite a bit next season.
The three youngsters give the Mariners defense, athleticism, more offense than expected and affordable contracts. All three are making the major-league minimum and have years of club control ahead.
Playing so many rookies, particularly all in the outfield, isn’t typical.
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The Mariners are one of three teams since 1913 to have three rookies start more than 80 games in the outfield, with Gamel starting 115 games, Heredia starting 98 and Haniger starting 82 despite missing two months on the disabled list. The most recent team do it was the 1969 Kansas City Royals: Lou Piniella (125), Pat Kelly (106) and Bob Oliver (89).
There have certainly been ups and downs that come with playing rookies.
Gamel hit a solo homer on Sunday, giving him 10 to go with a .278 batting average, .722 on-base plus slugging percentage, 22 doubles, five triples and 54 RBI. After going on a torrid run and hitting .354 in his first 51 games, Gamel predictably cooled off. Still he’s having a season that has the Mariners hopeful for more.
“I think Gamel has hung in there,” manager Scott Servais said. “I don’t think he was going hit .350 the whole year. After he tailed off, he’s come back a little. He’s competing and he plays hard all the time. That’s all we ask of our guys.”
Gamel admitted he’s lost about 5-10 pounds through the grind of the season, off a frame that didn’t have much to spare, while dealing with minor dings and dents. It’s a product of how he plays. But he isn’t making excuses.
“I feel as good as I can be,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to stay healthy. There’s nothing major. Everything I can play through. Being up last September helped my mindset.”
Haniger has been on a torrid stretch of…