Scott Servais won’t allow himself to start thinking about where he might slot both Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis into a lineup that is severely lacking power bats.
He knows that opportunity may not come for weeks as the two players work their way back to full health from their respective injury issues.
But there was a hint of a smile as he talked about watching them take batting practice on the field Tuesday afternoon and knowing they’ve reached the point of it being sooner rather than later.
“There’s hope,” he said. “There’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. We’ll see. We’ve missed them. Obviously, they are really good players, impact bats. If you can get those two guys in your lineup with Ty France back, it looks a little different than what we’ve been watching recently.”
The Mariners have yet to have Haniger and Lewis in the same lineup this season. Haniger went on the COVID injury list on April 16 and missed 12 games. He returned to the lineup on April 29 and suffered a Grade 2 high right-ankle sprain while fouling off a pitch in his first at-bat. He went on the injured list the next day.
After watching some of his teammates take swings on the high-velocity pitching machine, Haniger, Lewis and Dylan Moore took swings off Mariners coach Carson Vitale. In his first time taking on-field batting practice since the injury, Haniger could only laugh when Vitale accidentally hit him with the first pitch right in the front shoulder.
“I’m all good,” he said. “It was only the shoulder.”
With his right ankle appearing to be taped and wrapped by a sleeve, Haniger took multiple rounds of swings.
“Just nice and easy,” he said. “I’m sticking to the progression and wanting to get out in the field and take some swings. Just slowly ramp things up.”
Haniger started taking swings in the indoor cages late last week, hitting off a tee and soft toss. But moving to the field didn’t represent an increase in intensity.
“As long as you come in with the intent of ‘I’m just gonna be nice and easy, then you’re fine,’” he said. “That’s where I feel like, every day you turn things up a little bit and you’ll be where you want towards the end. It’s not smart to go out on the first day and try to hit home runs and swing as hard as you can.”
Even with easy swings, Haniger still hit some homers in the sessions, which is a reminder of that power.
But to him, hitting on the field didn’t represent a major step in his recovery.
“The sprinting and that sort of stuff that’s yet to come is going to be the big steps,” he said. “The agility work and stuff like that that’s going to come later for me, those would be the big steps.”
Haniger was cleared to start jogging last week.
“The first couple days didn’t feel too good,” he said. “But it’s turned the corner and started feeling better every time.”
The next progression is working his way up from jogging to full-speed running with some sprint work.
Haniger’s schedule still remains the same.
“I was hoping to get back in a minor-league rehab assignment in 10-12 weeks,” he said. “I feel like we’re still in that time frame. And I feel like that’s still gonna happen. So whenever I’ll be ready, I’ll be ready. I’m going to make sure I check all the boxes and feel strong and ready to come back to this team and be 100 percent.”
Lewis took batting practice on the field both Monday and Tuesday. He also ran the bases with intent.
After missing the first 44 games to start the season to make sure his surgically-repaired right knee was healthy, Lewis played in four games, hitting two homers. However, a wayward slider from Houston’s Jose Urquidy on May 28, glanced off his shoulder and then struck him in the head behind the ear. As he tried to avoid being hit, Lewis’ helmet moved up on his head and offered no protection when the ball hit him in the head.
He initially remained in the game, but was later removed and didn’t play the following day. He traveled to Baltimore with the team with the symptoms growing worse. He was immediately placed on the seven-day concussion injured list.
Lewis talked briefly in the dugout in an informal setting. Since he’d never dealt with a concussion, he wasn’t sure what he was feeling initially and that it was concussion-related. It included symptoms like headaches, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, fatigue and nausea were issues.
He appears to be closer to starting a rehab assignment than Haniger.
“I would hope so,” Servais said. “I don’t have any definite plans or they haven’t put the calendar in front of me and asked me my thoughts on it yet. So I think that’s kind of the next step to sit down with the players and start mapping it out with their (high performance) department and see what they have to say.”