It didn’t matter that his first game of the 2021 season came against a nasty left-handed starter pitcher who was dialed in with nearly no-hit, overpowering stuff. It didn’t matter that he went 0 for 3 with a walk and the Mariners lost 1-0 to the Dodgers in a pitchers’ duel between Julio Urias and Marco Gonzales.
All that mattered to Kyle Lewis was being back in the starting lineup, back playing center field and back with his teammates trying to continue this unexpectedly strong start to the 2021 season for Seattle.
After suffering a bone bruise to his right knee during spring training and missing the first 17 games of the season, Lewis was activated from the injured list before the game Tuesday afternoon against Los Angeles.
“I definitely didn’t anticipate for this amount of time,” he admitted. “You never know, especially with knees as far as my experiences in the past. You never know with timetables because it’s tough to put a value on those kind of things. I just tried to take it day by day.”
With Ty France out of the lineup due to a sore right forearm after being hit by a pitch Monday night, Lewis batted in the No. 2 spot behind Mitch Haniger while playing the entire game in center field. He received a warm ovation from the crowd of 8,998 when he stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning.
“It’s very special,” he said. “I never take it for granted being able to play. And so anytime I’m able to run out there with the uniform on, it’s always special, especially after being out for a little bit. Definitely a lot of energy, a lot of adrenaline going. I was happy with it, and just excited to get out there.”
Lewis walked in that first plate appearance, then lined out to center, hit a deep fly ball out to left and struck out in the ninth inning.
“I thought Kyle actually played a really good game today,” manager Scott Servais said. “He had a very good at-bat with a walk first time up, and hit a couple balls where he just missed them, but good swings today. I thought his timing was good. He looked good in the outfield. I’m excited to have him back and I look forward to having him on the road trip.”
Servais is eager to have Lewis in the lineup, likely in the cleanup spot. The Mariners have relied heavily on the top of the order that features Haniger, France and Kyle Seager. Lewis, who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2020, brings a power presence to that spot and allows other hitters to move down and lengthen it.
“I had no idea when he banged his knee it was going take this long, but I’m glad that we were patient with it,” Servais said. “I think he’s at peace. He’s 100%. He’s not worried about holding back on anything. He can go out and be himself and just go play. It’s a great time to get him back in the lineup.”
After being removed from the game Monday night with a right forearm contusion after taking a 98 mph fastball off his right forearm, France entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter for Taylor Trammell. He also played the ninth at second base.
To make room for Lewis on the active roster, outfielder Braden Bishop was optioned to the alternate site. Bishop played in seven games, mostly as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. He had one hit in four plate appearances.
The Mariners’ bullpen improved its scoreless innings streak to 19 1/3 innings with two innings of work from Casey Sadler and Keynan Middleton. The unit hasn’t allowed an earned run in 24 innings.