Heredia finding footing with Mariners

Defensive-minded OF looking to shine with bat

Heredia finding footing with Mariners

PEORIA -- The Mariners have seen the defensive ability, the strong arm and the speed of Guillermo Heredia. But in looking for a right-handed-hitting outfield candidate, the bat figured to be the biggest question coming into this spring.

So, yeah, it didn't hurt Heredia's cause to come out swinging in the first Cactus League game, ripping a pair of doubles to go with three RBIs in a three-hit day off the bench in Seattle's 13-3 win over the Padres on Saturday.

Heredia went 0-for-3 with a walk and RBI in Sunday's 13-2 win, but made two outstanding catches in center field in the fifth inning.

A key thing to remember with Heredia is that the 26-year-old now has a season under his belt in the United States after sitting out nearly two years while escaping Cuba. Adjusting to pro ball is a challenge for any player, but for Heredia it came with learning a new language, culture and life.

Being part of a Mariners team that includes fellow Cuban defectors Leonys Martin and Ariel Miranda has helped ease the transition.

"They're part of the process," Heredia said through interpreter Fernando Alcala. "Having them here is obviously helpful. While we might not have our own families here, the three of us are family. And we're going to help each other move forward and go through the days."

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Heredia posted a .250/.349/.315 line in 82 at-bats over 45 games after being called up for the final two months last year, serving largely as a late-inning defensive replacement. The Mariners then sent him to the Arizona Fall League to work on shortening his swing and the effort appears to be paying off.

Heredia's nice running catch

"I'm really excited what I see offensively," manager Scott Servais said. "Not just because he got three hits yesterday. We've seen it in batting practice out here. I like the adjustment he's made. He's flattened out his swing path a little bit. His swing is shorter right now that it was last year. I give him credit. He looks great. He's a little bit stronger and looks a little bigger to me than last year."

Heredia says the swing adjustment was necessary and is just part of his new comfort level.

"The biggest thing is preparation," Heredia said. "Last year the thing on my mind was just getting to Spring Training. I didn't have the preparation to have success here."

This is a man who appreciates the journey as much as anyone. Just getting to the Major Leagues last year helped justify the hardships to himself and his family.

"That was one of the greatest opportunities I've gotten in my life," he said. "To get to that, you do appreciate it and I'm going to work to keep that going."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.