Hot-hitting Haniger has taken to the leadoff spot since being inserted there early in August. Also rosters expand on Saturday, Seattle is expected to call up six players.
OAKLAND — It’s difficult to know if Mitch Haniger is happy, angry or indifferent to batting in the leadoff spot. Though as he likes to say, “it doesn’t really matter because my approach doesn’t change.”
Certainly the results please him. But Haniger’s stoic persona and ultra-serious attitude that goes into overdrive the moment he walks into the stadium make it hard to determine if he’s pleased, peeved or pressed for time. Even his manager Scott Servais wasn’t sure how to read Haniger’s current mood on the hitting situation.
“You never know with Mitch,” Servais said. “I’ve got to believe he’s happy with the results. And I think he likes it, understanding that you are kind of setting the tone from that spot. We like how he handles his at-bats. It doesn’t matter who is on the mound or the situation. You are always going to get quality out of him. It’s been very good for us.”
Do baseball-hitting robots have emotions?
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Servais laughed at the joke about Haniger’s serious persona and businesslike approach to everything.
“He’s about as structured of a player as you are going to find,” Servais said. “I like his program. He’s very professional. He’s been that way from Day 1 and he’s not deviated from that program. He’s very consistent.”
Since being moved to the leadoff spot on August 9, Haniger has a slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .361/.418/.663 with 10 doubles, five homers, seven walks, 12 RBIs and 16 runs scored. That includes a current 11-game hitting streak.
After struggling in July, posting a .191/.353/.265 slash line with two doubles, a homer, 12 walks and seven RBIs, Haniger is tearing it up in August. He’s got a .351/.400/.588 slash line with 12 doubles, five homers, nine walks, 15 RBIs and 19 runs scored. He has hit safely in 23 of 27 games, including 12 multi-hit games. He leads the AL with 40 hits and 12 doubles in the month.
Haniger also hit his 23rd homer of the season on Thursday night. He wasn’t known to be a power hitter when acquired. But the power is a nice bonus to go with his relentless approach at the plate.
“It’s the quality of the at-bat,” Servais said. “The power and the ability to get the ball in the air and he has a good feel to hit, so he’s looking for pitches to hit at the right time. The big thing is that he uses the whole field to hit. He’s done a better job of that. That’s when he’s at his best, when he’s using the whole and not everything to the pull side. He’s certainly got power. We’ve seen him hit balls out early in games, late in games, against hard throwers, against soft throwers, it’s in there. There’s no question about that. I don’t want top put a number on guys, but he’s sitting at 23 right now, if he has another great month, he might end up at 30, which would be an unbelievable year.”
On Saturday, Major League Baseball will expand their active rosters from 25 to 40, meaning the Mariners can and will add some help to the team.
Servais said the help will come in waves. A group of players will come up From Class AAA Tacoma on Saturday while a few more will return after the Rainiers’ season is over on Monday. Seattle could also pick up relievers Matt Festa and Nick Rumbelow from Class AA Arkansas when the Travelers finish up postseason play.
“We will probably will get two or three different waves of players coming in here,” Servais said. “We need them. We need the arms in the bullpen. It will give other guys the opportunity to help out whether it’s late in games or a spot start here or there. It will be really helpful.”
The Mariners are expected to bring up six players on Saturday:
- David Freitas, catcher
- Chasen Bradford, right-handed pitcher
- Ryan Cook, right-handed pitcher
- James Pazos, left-handed pitcher
- Justin Grimm, right-handed pitcher
- Kristopher Negron, infielder
The first four players all had stints with Seattle this season. Both Bradford and Pazos spent most of the season in the big leagues. Bradford ended up back in Tacoma because of roster shuffling with the bullpen while Pazos struggled with command and mechanics and need a quick reset in Tacoma.
Grimm was signed as a minor league free agent on July 19 after being released by the Royals on July 7. He’s made 10 appearances with the Rainiers, posting a 1.64 ERA with 17 strikes and two walks in 11 innings pitched.
Negron was just acquired from the Diamondbacks in a minor league trade for cash considerations on Thursday. He never actually reported to Class AAA Tacoma despite being assigned there after the trade.
Segura sits again
Jean Segura was out of the lineup for the second straight day with a sore left shin. Segura fouled a ball off his leg in Wednesday’s loss to the Padres. It forced him out of the game early. He had x-rays, which showed no fracture.
“He’s still a little sore today,” Servais said before the game. “He’s feeling better, but he has pretty deep bone bruise on his shin. We want to make sure he’s feeling 100 percent or close to it before he gets out there. He may be a available late in the game. We’ll wait and see.”
Segura was in Thursday’s lineup, but pulled himself out of the pregame workout and the lineup.
“He took one groundball,” Servais said. “It was really bothering him pretty good. Dee (Gordon) did a nice job in his place. He’ll be ready to go and handle it fine.”