A year ago, outfielder Guillermo Heredia was still jumping through legal hoops in an effort to get his paperwork squared away before joining the Mariners after defecting in 2015 from Cuba.
Now, he’s battling for a big-league job.
Heredia, 26, opened his spring bid Saturday by going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles in a reserve role. He was in the starting lineup Sunday when the Mariners once again played campus co-tenant San Diego at Peoria Stadium.
"It’s definitely more comfortable," he said. "It feels more like a family. You know everybody. You can talk to everybody. Everybody has been helping me, not just on the field but with the English language."
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Heredia shortened and flattened his swing in the offseason, which included time in the Arizona Fall League.
"He doesn’t have the wrap of the bat," manager Scott Servais said. "It’s definitely something he’s worked on. We talked about it at the end of the year. I give him credit. He looks great."
Heredia opened last season at Double-A Jackson, where he batted .298 in 53 games, before making a June 24 jump to Triple-A Tacoma. He batted .312 in 35 games for the Rainiers, which led to two big-league tours.
"That was one of the greatest opportunities that I’ve had in my life," he said. "To get to do that, you do appreciate it, and I’m going to keep working to keep that going."
Heredia batted .250 in 46 big-league games with a .349 on-base percentage.