After taking a second fastball that registered more than 90 mph off his helmet in the span of six days, Seattle’s Dylan Moore was forced to the seven-day concussion injured list and his season is done.
The latest incident was a 92-mph fastball from Houston reliever Brandon Bielak in the eighth inning in the victory Monday over the Astros. The impact of the ball hitting him in the helmet put Moore on the ground and had manager Scott Servais and an athletic trainer running out of the dugout to check on him. After a brief conversation, Moore remained in the game and appeared to be fine.
Asked about Moore’s condition after the game Monday, Servais said in his postgame video conference that he thought the young infielder would be fine, mentioning that Moore was joking the latest ball to the helmet wasn’t 99 mph. The comment was referencing the 99-mph fastball from Giants right-hander Sam Coonrad that struck Moore in the helmet last Wednesday, eventually forcing him out of the game.
“When I talked to you guys, I thought he was going to be OK,” Servais said in his pregame video conference Tuesday. “After I got done with the press briefing after the game, I talked to the training staff and he wasn’t feeling that great. He felt fine (initially) and then once he got back to his locker after the game, the adrenaline kind of wears off. He’s going to be out for a little while going through the concussion protocols. The minimum on that thing is like seven days so where we’re at with the season, he will not be back out there for us, which is a big blow.”
The Mariners lose one of their most productive hitters in this shortened season during a last-gasp push for the postseason as Moore’s breakout season comes to an end six games early.
“We’re going to miss him here in the last week that’s for sure,” Servais said.
In 38 games, Moore posted a .255/.358/.496 slash line with nine doubles, eight homers, 17 RBI, a team-high 12 stolen bases, 14 walks and 43 strikeouts. While his batting average has diminished a little in recent weeks, Moore’s power numbers have remained. Per MLB Statcast, the balls Moore hit in play had an average exit velocity of 90.4 mph, which is second highest on the team. Of the 94 balls that resulted in an hit, out or error for Moore, 42 of them had exit velocities of 95 mph. His production forced Servais to find ways to get him in the lineup on an every-day basis at a variety of positions.
Moore was a late arrival into summer camp in July after testing positive for COVID-19 and being delayed in passing intake protocols. He played in just a handful of scrimmages before the season opened.
“He never was really set back by it,” Servais said. “He made the team and then just kind of worked his way into the lineup. You knew he was going to play a lot because there’s so much defensive flexibility, but he earned it. If you hit, you’ll play, and he kept hitting and creating opportunities for himself because of his performance. There is nothing better than when guys earn it, and he certainly did. He earned the right to play every day. It just gives you so much confidence. He’s going be a big part of what we’re doing here going forward.”
At age 27 and with four more years of club control, Moore will figure into the Mariners’ future plans in something more than defensive-replacement utility player and fill-in starter. He will compete for a starting spot next year at second base, and his defensive versatility could give Servais options to play him every day without a regular position.
“He is going to play,” Servais said. “I’m very comfortable and like what he brings at second base — very athletic player who can turn a double play. And on the days we maybe need to give somebody else a blow, he can go out and do some things in the outfield or anywhere on the infield. But I’d like to see him maybe get settled in at second base.”
Of course, that could change in the offseason if general manager Jerry Dipoto shuffles some roster pieces.
“The offseason always brings change on how your team is going to look and how your roster is built out, but he’s in a great spot,” Servais said. “He made such huge improvements offensively, the power ability, the ability to use all fields to hit, handling the different pitches in the strike zone better than he ever has, it’s credit to him and the work he put in. He had an awesome year for us.”
Servais said Ty France will see the bulk of the playing time at second base in the final six games with Dee Gordon possibly getting a start if needed.
Seattle recalled outfielder Jake Fraley to take Moore’s spot on the roster. The plan is to play Fraley the rest of the way. He was in the starting lineup Tuesday night in left field.
“We’re gonna play Jake,” Servais said. “We are a little light in the outfield. I’d like to play him as much as we can here in the last week and see if he’s made a few adjustments. From what I heard, he’s swinging the bat a bit better. They haven’t had a lot of games down in Tacoma after getting smoked out for a few days. Hopefully he can spark us a little bit and just have good at bats. I’m not looking so much at the end result, but if you have good at-bat.”
*** Shed Long Jr., who essentially lost his starting job at second base to Moore due to his own lack of production, underwent surgery on his right shin Tuesday per his representatives.
Dr. E Lyle Cain Jr., an orthopaedic surgeon at the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center, performed the procedure.
Long was diagnosed with a stress fracture a week ago and was placed on the injured list. He went to multiple doctors for the best course of action. But surgery was the most reliable option for returning to full strength.
The recovery is around six to eight weeks with Long expected to be 100% ready for spring training 2021.
Long, 24, dealt with discomfort in the shin since the original spring training and tried to play through it since he was being given the starting second base job. But it gradually got worse. In 34 games, he posted a .171/.242/.291 slash line with five doubles, three homers, nine RBI, four stolen bases, 11 walks and 37 strikeouts.