Haniger is trying to replicate his early success since returning from the disabled list in June.
With his typical stone-faced intensity, Mitch Haniger attacked his pregame batting practice Thursday in the same focused approach that he’s exhibited since spring training. If Haniger is on the baseball field, he’s serious about his work.
It’s that no-nonsense approach to his craft that allows manager Scott Servais to believe that Haniger’s recent struggles are only temporary.
After a brilliant start to his Mariners career, Haniger’s season was sidetracked by an oblique strain on April 25, putting him on the 10-day disabled list. Before the injury, Haniger was looking like one of the American League’s top rookies and he was the Mariners’ best player at the time. He was hitting .342 with a .447 on-base percentage, a .608 slugging percentage, seven doubles, a triple, four homers and 16 RBI in 21 games.
Since his return from the disabled list on June 11, Haniger hasn’t been able to replicate that early production. In 23 games, he’s hitting .209 (18 for 86) with three doubles, three homers, seven RBI and 28 strikeouts.
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Haniger had a double and a home run Thursday in four at-bats. Is he turning it around?
“With Mitch, if you look at the majority of his at-bats, it’s controlling the strike zone and getting pitches in the strike zone to hit,” Servais said. “There was a period where he was in between with his timing and taking some fastballs. The last few games he’s been chasing some pitches out of the zone.”
The Mariners never expected that Haniger would carry such a torrid start throughout the season. But the regression has been a little more dramatic.
“I don’t care how much God-given ability you have or how far you can hit it or how good your swing is, you have to swing at strikes,” Servais said. “He hasn’t done that as well lately as he’s done earlier.”
And yet, the Mariners aren’t going to panic with Haniger or curtail his playing time. They believe he will fight his way out of it. He’s too disciplined in his preparation while his overall understanding of the strike zone is too advanced to be relegated to a slump forever.
“We saw an unbelievable Mitch Haniger for the first month,” Servais said. “His timing has been off and we haven’t seen him control the strike zone as well as he did early on. He is an inexperienced player at this level. There are going to be some ups and downs at this level. We’ve certainly seen the ups and how good it can be.
“I do have a lot of confidence in him. He prepares very well. He’s always talking the game, asking the right questions and talking to the right people. He’s searching.
He’s not sitting back and saying, ‘I’ll be OK.’ He’s not really wired that way.”
Late in Wednesday’s loss, Robinson Cano tweaked the quad muscle that had put him on the disabled list in mid-May. With only four games before the All-Star break, Cano was back in the lineup on Thursday night.
Former Husky standout and all Pac-12 defensive back Budda Baker threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday. Baker was a second-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals.