Kyle Lewis can’t get those first 17 games of the season and all those missed at-bats back. When he suffered a bone bruise to his left knee in a Cactus League game on March 22, he didn’t imagine it would cost him the first three weeks of the season. And he didn’t expect that it would be quite as long into his return from the injured list to get back to the form that helped win the American League rookie of the year award in 2020.
But with no minor league games, meaning no games for a rehab stint, Lewis had to rely on live batting practice sessions and simulated games to see live pitching and refind his timing for his return.
It has been a gradual process that’s finally yielding the results that he and the Mariners expect.
In Friday’s 3-2 win over the Rangers, he played a part in all of the runs the Mariners scored. Lewis led off the second with a deep double that hopped over the fence in center. He scored on Ty France’s single to right. In the third inning, he sat on a curveball from Rangers starter Jordan Lyles, driving it over the wall in right field for a two-run homer.
“This past stretch of games has been really strong, and I’m hitting the ball really hard,” he said. “Sometimes they’ve been running them down and catching them, but I’m hitting the ball really hard, seeing the ball well, taking the walks. The results will continue to come over time and I believe in that. They’ll probably come in bunches, but as far as my process personally, when I go home at night, I think I’m checking those boxes pretty well. So I’m just trying to keep that going honestly, because I think the momentum is going in a good direction.”
After posting a .161/.212/.387 slash line with a double, two homers, two RBI and nine strikeouts in his first eight games — all in April — Lewis’ bat started to come to life in May.
He ripped off a nine-game stretch with a .345/.395/.457 slash line with a double, a homer and three RBI.
The lack of extra base hits were a concern. But those have started to come recently.
“Kyle’s had a really good month, quite frankly,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I know he got off to a little bit of a slow start, statistically, when he first came back from the IL. I thought all along that his at-bats had been pretty good. He wasn’t getting a whole lot of results early on. Right now, it’s always a great sign when you see him hit the ball that hard and with that much authority to right field like we saw last night. That’s a really good sign for him.”
In 25 games in May, Lewis has a .276/.382/.402 slash line with two doubles, three homers, eight RBI, 14 walks and 24 strikeouts.
With the Mariners season-long inconsistency at the plate, having Lewis producing regularly or in bunches is needed.
Vest returns from COVID IL
Servais confirmed that reliever Will Vest has returned to Seattle after his quarantine in San Diego. Mariners reliever Erik Swanson first mentioned that Vest was back with the team after Friday’s win over the Rangers.
Because of the rules surrounding players on the COVID injured list, Servais didn’t want to say much about Vest in his pregame media session at 3:15 p.m.
“It’s probably not the best to comment on it,” he said. “There are some tests and things he has to do to come back in. It’s probably best for me not to say a lot, but he is around our team. He’s working out. I think he’s scheduled to throw a bullpen today. We’ll see how that looks. These guys weren’t able to do a ton of activity, obviously by themselves quarantining in San Diego. He feels great. He’s certainly rested and fresh and ready to go.”
Vest must have passed those tests because he was reinstated from the COVID IL about an hour before first pitch on Saturday. To make room on the 40-man roster, right-hander Casey Sadler was transferred to the 60-day injured list with a right shoulder impingement. Vest took the place of Swanson, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right groin strain. Swanson pitched the final four outs of Friday’s win, throwing 31 pitches most of the time with runners on base.
While Vest is back, right-handers Drew Steckenrider and Kendall Graveman are still quarantined to a hotel in San Diego. They could return some time next week.
The Mariners lead all of baseball with 15 players on the injured list. The next closest is Toronto with 12.