PHOENIX — The once growing hope of Kyle Lewis returning to the lineup to provide a jolt to the Mariners’ hot-then-cold-then-lukewarm-then-inert offense has slowly faded to somewhere between doubtful and not happening.
During the pregame media session Friday from Chase Field, Mariners manager Scott Servais delivered the discouraging news that Lewis had suffered a setback in his recovery from in-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
In the final stages of his rehabilitation, when the Mariners were scheduling his rehab assignments to get him back on the big-league field for the final weeks of the season, Lewis felt discomfort and soreness in the troublesome right knee that has now had three surgical procedures.
“He’s not feeling that great,” Servais said. “He’s had a little setback here the last few days. He really picked up his activity level there, trying to get to the point where he could go out in a rehab. He was running the bases hard and did (a) little sliding thing. But he’s not ready to go out to rehab yet.”
Lewis did those drills last Saturday and Sunday. The hope was that he might start playing for Class AAA Tacoma this week. But the knee hasn’t responded as expected from the increased activity level.
“We’ll just have to wait and see where that goes from there,” Servais said. “He was very optimistic here about six, seven days ago. But with the turn of events here recently, I’m not sure what this direction points us in.”
With 29 games remaining in the 2021 season, Lewis might get to play in only a handful of games at the MLB level if he were to start a rehab assignment next week.
When Lewis couldn’t start his rehab Monday, Servais was asked if a better course of action might be to shut the reigning Rookie of the Year down for the rest of the season and let him focus on being ready for next season. Servais was adamant that beyond helping the Mariners’ inconsistent offense, getting Lewis in games would be beneficial for him next season.
“I was hoping he could kind of work through this one,” Servais said. “I talked to him about a week ago. It was more about what the plan would be to see if we could get him out on a rehab and start getting some DH at-bats and then build it up. But I haven’t talked to him recently. I’m sure he’s frustrated. He wants to get back on the field. I felt it would be very important for him to do that. But also I did say, only if he’s at 100%, and I think that is super important.”
Servais said he knows this isn’t like playing through the typical muscle soreness that comes during a season. This is a recovery from a surgery.
“You don’t go out there you know if you’re 60 or 70%,” Servais said. “That is not good for him. He won’t be productive at the major-league level if he just tries to do that. So only if he’s 100%, feels good about it, should he push the envelope on it.”
That also goes for Lewis returning as a full-time designated hitter.
“I know he’s not coming back until he gets out and plays some at the minor-league level to get some reps, see some pitches, get some timing down,” Servais said. “So until he gets to that level, it’s crazy for me to speculate on what he could do or what he can’t do.”
Viewed as a key part of the Mariners’ rebuilding plan, Lewis was expected to be a middle of the order presence in 2021 after his award-winning rookie season.
But a bone bruise in the same right knee suffered during the last week of spring training forced him to start the season on the injured list.
After missing the first 17 games this season, he returned to the lineup. He 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.
Diego Castillo (right shoulder inflammation) threw one inning on a rehab assignment with the Arizona League Mariners on Thursday night. He is expected to be reinstated from the 10-day injured list in the coming days. Left-hander Anthony Misiewicz (left forearm strain) also is expected to return sometime this season.