SHANNON DRAYER

Guillermo Heredia makes adjustments and is rewarded early in Mariners camp

Feb 26, 2017, 9:31 AM | Updated: Feb 27, 2017, 12:19 pm
Guillermo Heredia hit .250 (23 for 92) with a .664 OPS in 45 games with the M's last season. (AP)...
Guillermo Heredia hit .250 (23 for 92) with a .664 OPS in 45 games with the M's last season. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – It was just one game, but it’s hard not to catch the manager’s eye when you go 3 for 3 with two doubles and three RBIs as Guillermo Heredia did in the Mariners’ Cactus League opener. In truth, attention has been on the 26-year-old all camp and those eyes are seeing something a little different than what they saw last year.

“Totally different guy,” manager Scott Servais said after the Mariners’ 13-3 win over the Padres Saturday. “You talk about just signing, showing up in this camp from Cuba having never spent a day in the United States to where he has come in a year? A really good day for him.”

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Heredia was a late signing last spring and hadn’t played competitive ball since the summer of 2014. He’s known for his speed and defense, but there were questions about his offense. There were also questions about how he would hold up in a 162-game MLB season. That, for Heredia, was an eye-opener.

“It was really hard obviously,” he said through an interpreter. “I didn’t play that many games and I passed the limit in Cuba, where we only played 90 games. I just had to prepare myself mentally and physically to be able to do the grind for 162 games.”

While his focus before last year was finding a place to play baseball again, after making a home in the Mariners organization, Heredia was able to turn his full attention to preparing to play in 2017. Servais noticed the difference, saying that in addition to moving well, Heredia looked a bit bigger.

“I definitely feel a lot stronger. I don’t think I look bigger. I wish I looked bigger,” Heredia said with a laugh. “The other thing was nutrition. I think last year, adjusting to the American food culture was different and now I am more prepared.”

For Heredia, it wasn’t a matter of eating the wrong things after arriving in the US. It was a matter of not eating.

“Those things I wasn’t familiar with, I wasn’t sure how my body was going to react so I just stayed away from them. Now I am more comfortable,” he said.

Eating is no longer a problem. In fact, he’s found a new favorite.

“I really like the pasta at Olive Garden,” he said, adding in English, “It’s beautiful!”

Diet and workout were not Heredia’s only changes. When the season ended, the Mariners sent him to the Arizona Fall League as a taxi-squad player, meaning he could only play a few games a week. The extra time was spent editing his swing. Heredia, who came to the organization as a switch hitter, bats only right-handed now. Minor-league hitting coordinator Brant Brown went to work on flattening out Heredia’s swing path and shortening the swing.

“It’s hard, but I have been able to adjust to it,” Heredia said. “Obviously I had a lot of deficiencies in my swing last year, and luckily I am already getting some success with it and I just have to keep going, work hard and continue to make those adjustments.”

A quick look around camp and it is not hard to tell that those battling for the final spot(s) on the roster all bring speed and defense. Being right-handed is a plus for Heredia but he needs to hit well, and in the Cactus League opener, he certainly did.

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Guillermo Heredia makes adjustments and is rewarded early in Mariners camp