In recent days and pregames past, Kyle Lewis, wearing baseball pants and typical gear, would often make an appearance on the field of T-Mobile Park when his teammates were going through their normal workout in preparation for that night’s game.
Occasionally, he would play some catch or even stand in the outfield talking and catching a few fly balls.
But Friday afternoon, he emerged from the Mariners clubhouse with a bat in his hand, cleats on his feet, sweat dripping down his face and a purposeful look on his face.
For the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, Lewis joined his teammates in their normal workout for on-field hitting.
It was a significant step in his recovery that Lewis was expected to make sometime this week.
With manager Scott Servais throwing to him, Luis Torrens and Abraham Toro, Lewis took three rounds of batting practice on the field, launching a handful of balls over the fence and peppering the outfield with linedrives.
Servais indicated this week that Lewis was progressing toward on-field batting practice. He’d been hitting in the cages daily and increasing his workloads in the gym to more strenuous forms of plyometrics and lifting.
Lewis did not take any fly balls or run the bases, which will be future tests he must pass before heading out on a rehab assignment and eventually returning to the Mariners lineup.
The Mariners had hoped that Lewis might return by late August, but it’s trending more toward the first or second week in September.
“I am optimistic he will get back and play for us this year,” Servais said Tuesday. “We’ve missed him. We saw the type of talent and what this guy brings to our lineup, and certainly the right-handed bat and what that does in balancing our lineup even more. But we’ve got to make sure he’s 100 percent ready to go when he does get back. So again, no timetable set yet on when he does a rehab or any of that stuff.”
Lewis hasn’t spoken to the media since tearing the meniscus May 31 while trying to make a catch in center field.
The details on the injury have been sparse with only Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto offering general updates. Lewis has opted not to speak with the media since the injury or the surgery.
When approached after Friday’s batting practice session, Lewis politely declined.
“Sorry man, I’m working,” he said as he passed by. “I’m working.”
Lewis has always been willing to put in the work, whether its rehabbing from an injury, offseason workouts or his pregame routine. Given the nearly two years of grinding work he put in to get that right knee healthy after suffering tears to his anterior cruciate ligament as well as his medial and lateral meniscus on a play at the plate just months after the Mariners selected him with the 11th pick of the 2016 draft. It would require reconstructive surgery.
He would undergo another arthroscopic surgery to clean up some issues in the knee before the 2018 season. But following that procedure, Lewis remained healthy and played without any significant health issues until this season.
Viewed as a key part of the Mariners rebuilding plan, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 2020 and was expected to be a middle of the order presence in 2021.
But he suffered a bone bruise in the same right knee during the last week of spring training, forcing him to start the season on the injured list.
After missing the first 17 games this season, he returned to the lineup. He had played in 36 games before the meniscus tear, posting a .246/.333/.392 slash line with four doubles, five homers, 11 RBI, 16 walks and 37 strikeouts in 147 plate appearances. Over his last 10 games, he had a .289/.341/.500 slash line with two doubles, two homers, five RBI, two walks and 10 strikeouts in 41 plate appearances.
If the Mariners can get him back by Sept. 1, he would bring a significant presence to a lineup that has struggled to score runs at various points. And from a development standpoint, getting at least a month’s worth of plate appearances and innings would be highly useful for the 2022 season.
- Left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield (left forearm strain/oblique strain) will start a rehab assignment with Class AAA Tacoma, starting Sunday afternoon’s game at Cheney Stadium. Sheffield is expected to throw two to three innings depending on his pitch count. He likely will make at least two rehab starts before returning to the Mariners active roster.