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With addition of Denard Span, Mariners have options again in OF

The Mariners plan to use Denard Span as their regular left fielder. (AP)

When the Mariners lost Robinson Canó to an 80-game suspension last week, they had to take Dee Gordon out of the outfield to fill the hole at second base. But with the addition of Denard Span in a trade Friday, they’re back to a good mix of four outfielders to use on a regular basis.

Mariners get Alex Colomé, Denard Span in trade with Tampa Bay

Span arrives in a trade along with reliever Alex Colomé from Tampa Bay, allowing the Mariners to patch up two holes in one fell swoop. Colomé assumes a setup spot the Mariners originally had in mind for the injured David Phelps (more on Colomé’s role here). Span, meanwhile, will take over in left field and allow the Mariners to get their outfielders more regular rest, something they lost when Gordon moved back to second base.

While it sounds like there will be a good amount of rotating in the outfield, Ben Gamel’s playing time will take a hit, at least at first.

“I think the idea here is that we have four outfielders who are hugely versatile,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told Danny, Dave and Moore (listen to the full interview here). “It gives us versatility, I think almost like a rotation. Ben’s still gonna get his at-bats, but I would suspect that you’re gonna see a lot of Denard Span, Guillermo Heredia and Mitch Haniger, and you might see Ben rove a little more than you have.”

Manager Scott Servais indicated as much during his pregame interview with the media.

“Denard Span’s gonna play,” manager Scott Servais said of the 34-year-old veteran. “He gets on base, he knows what he’s doing in the batter’s box, and … he’s been on a few playoff teams.”

Dipoto provided a look into how the much rotating could happen – especially when Canó returns in August, though Gordon won’t move completely back to the outfield due to Canó being ineligible to play in the postseason.

“Denard plays left and center. Ben Gamel can play all three but he’s good on the corners. Mitch can play all three – he’s our primary right fielder but he can slide into center and he has. Guillermo is outstanding in all three and we want him to primarily (play) center field. And when Robbie eventually comes back, Dee will be some part of that mix, although we do still want him to play second base because we plan on playing in the postseason and we’ll need him to be there then.”

Heredia, who has always been an above-average fielder, has capitalized on an opportunity to play every day in center. He is hitting .300 with a .444 on-base percentage entering Friday, and Servais (“Guillermo’s played great”) plans to roll with him there for now.

Gamel missed the first 2 ½ weeks of the season with an oblique strain suffered early in spring training, and it took a while for him to get going at the plate. Entering Friday, he is hitting .226 with five RBIs and 11 runs scored over 31 games, though the 26 year old has hit .311 with a .848 OPS since May 5.

Span was playing left field with Tampa Bay, but from 2010 through 2017 he exclusively played in center. A left-handed hitter, he has a .238 average and .364 on-base percentage this year in 43 games to go along with four home runs, 28 RBIs, 34 runs scored and six stolen bases.

Span, who came to Tampa Bay from San Francisco over the offseason in the Evan Longoria trade, hit .272 with 12 homers, 43 RBIs, 73 runs scored and 12 stolen bases in 19 attempts in 2017. He has appeared in the postseason four times – 2009 and 2010 with Minnesota, 2014 with Washington and 2016 with San Francisco.

“Good athlete, still runs very well. He’s been around the league for better than a decade now,” Dipoto said. “Roughly a .350 on-base guy over the course of his career and he’s doing those same things this year. He moves the lineup, and for all the things he does on the field, the clubhouse impact and the quality of the human might exceed all of that.”

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