Cole Gillespie did everything he could to make the Mariners out of spring training. In the end, he was one of the last guys cut. But less than a month into the season, he’s getting his chance at the major-league level.
Gillespie had his minor-league contract selected from Class AAA Tacoma on Thursday, replacing Nick Franklin on the 25-man roster. On Friday, he was starting in left field and batting eighth in the lineup.
“He swung the bat extremely well this spring,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “The numbers caught him a little bit and we just didn’t have the room. Right now, we’re trying to play with the roster and get the right fit. This guy was swinging the bat well down there, so hopefully he’ll continue to stay hot up here.”
Gillespie was admittedly disappointed when he didn’t make the team. But he didn’t let that affect him when he reported to Tacoma. It showed in the numbers. He was hitting .362 (21 for 58) with five doubles, a triple, five home runs and 14 RBI in 16 games with the Rainiers.
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“It was a little frustrating at first, especially being with the team till a couple weeks left in spring and going down,” he said. “At the same time, I can’t control their moves and their decisions. So the only thing I could do is go down there and continue to put up some numbers and open some eyes and try to force their hand if I could. I was fortunate enough to go down there and swing a hot bat and play some good defense, and I’m lucky enough to to be up here this early.”
Gillespie, who was a star at Oregon State and helped lead the Beavers to a national title, believed that Seattle was the best fit for him all along. As a minor-league free agent, he could have chosen many different organizations. Seattle seemed to give him the best opportunity to find his way back to the big leagues.
“Initially when I signed, I felt like this was going to be a good spot for me,” he said. “When I signed, their roster was pretty left-hand oriented. I knew talking with them that they’d probably go out and sign more right-handed bats. But I still felt this was going to be a good spot for me. Being from the Northwest, being from Portland, I felt like all teams being equal, I’d choose the Mariners over them. So far it’s working out.”
There is no exact plan for his playing time. He’ll be a backup outfielder. He’s played in 78 major-league games with the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Giants.
• The Mariners filled the open spot on their 25-man roster on Friday by calling up left-hander Lucas Luetge. He replaces Erasmo Ramirez, who was optioned to Class A High Desert. Luetge gives the bullpen added depth.
• James Paxton played catch for five minutes from 45 feet. It’s the first throwing he’s done since being shut down with a strained latissmus dorsi. Paxton will gradually increase te distance and time on the catch sessions.
• Blake Beavan (shoulder tendinitis) has yet to be cleared for throwing.
• Taijuan Walker (shoulder impingement) is still scheduled to start playing catch on Monday.
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