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Hot-hitting Gillespie carving out spot on Seattle

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ST. PETERSBURG -- There was a stretch of time a few weeks ago when it seemed inevitable that outfielder Cole Gillespie would be sent back to Triple-A Tacoma. He wasn't playing much, wasn't producing a lot when he did, and seemed like the logical player to go when a roster move was required.

But Gillespie hung around, manager Lloyd McClendon began playing him more as other players got hurt or struggled, and the 29-year-old journeyman suddenly began heating up to the point where he's now one of the Mariners' most productive bats.

Gillespie slugged his first Major League home run since 2011 with the D-backs in Saturday's 7-4 victory over the Rays, a line-drive blast that carried 417 feet to straightaway center. And he's now hit .471 (8-for-17) in his last eight games, raising his average from .217 to .325 in the process.

"Anytime you get back-to-back games and consistent at-bats, every batter is going to feel a little more positive that way," Gillespie said. "But I wasn't getting frustrated. I just waited for my opportunity and right now it's now. Hopefully, I can string together some good games and good at-bats and get some W's."

Manager Lloyd McClendon had used Gillespie almost exclusively in platoon situations against southpaws, and only three of his first 40 plate appearances came against right-handers. But with Michael Saunders sidelined by a sore shoulder, Gillespie got his first start against a right-hander on Saturday and smoked a home run off Alex Cobb.

"I mentioned to Lloyd a couple weeks ago that I can handle righties just as much," he said. "I even told him all my hits in Tacoma this year were against right-handers, and he kinda shook his head and nodded. I don't know how much he took that in, but nonetheless, it was good to get another start against a righty."

Gillespie was back in the lineup Sunday against Rays right-hander Chris Archer. For a guy who has played just 99 career games in parts of four seasons with the D-backs, Cubs, Giants and now the Mariners, any time is a good time. And after belting his fourth career home run Saturday, he showed there might be more in the tank than people realize.

"I hope so, I hope you're seeing the future there," he said with a smile. "Obviously, when the hits are falling, it's nice. I'd like to hit for some power as well, but that's not what I'm up there trying to do. I'm just trying to put a good swing on each pitch and have good at-bats. The rest will take care of itself."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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