ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The people passing by the random and empty kid’s baseball field in the Seattle area had to be wondering, “what the hell is that guy doing?”

It’s not every day you see a grown man standing on one of the small portable pitching mounds, firing baseballs to the backstop like he’s trying to pitch in the big leagues.

All the scene needed was Bruce Springsteen playing in the back, “I had a friend was a big baseball player back in high school. He could throw that speedball by you, make you look like a fool.”

But it wasn’t some middle-aged man channeling his lost glory days like Uncle Rico in “Napoleon Dynamite.”

No, it was Mariners reliever Paul Sewald trying to keep his arm active while he was waiting to clear COVID-19 protocols and return to the team. The park near his home had a field and he was able to use it during the day when kids were in school.

“I got a couple of looks like, ‘This looks really strange that this grown adult is throwing on a Little League field,’” Sewald said. “But it was fine. It was no big deal. It was a friendly park, everyone stayed away from me, and I kept away from everybody. I got a dozen baseballs from the team to use and I threw them away after I was done.”


Sewald and the Mariners hope that unconventional method will allow him to slide back in his role as one of the late-inning relievers in the bullpen.

On Wednesday, the Mariners activated Sewald from the COVID injured list and optioned right-hander Penn Murfee back to Class AAA Tacoma.

Will Sewald get a soft landing or go right back into the fire of high leverage?

“No, he comes right back into the same role that he’s been with us in the past, so it will be leverage,” manager Scott Servais said.

Sewald was cleared to rejoin the team on Monday for the three-series road trip. He tested positive for COVID last week along with several other members of the organization.

“I feel good,” Sewald said of his health. “I had it a couple of years ago and I had the same things where it was more like a cold. If we didn’t have COVID, I would have just been taking Sudafed or NyQuil, other than that felt fine. … Once I got on the antiviral medicine, I felt really, really good.”


The Mariners decided to wait a day to activate him from the injured list, allowing him to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday.

“I did everything (Tuesday) like I would have on a normal day so it was good,” he said. “That was a decision we made as a group for the last two or three days, I said I’d like to come back and take a day to make sure everything’s OK.”

Watching games on TV was a miserable experience for Sewald.

“That was pretty tough,” he said. “I’m just excited that we went 5-1 while I was gone. It would have would have hurt a little bit more if we had gone the other way.”

Outfielder Mitch Haniger (COVID-19) took part in a full pregame workout, but wasn’t activated from the injured list. While he’s been cleared by MLB protocols, Haniger is dealing with some head congestion per Servais and was given some medication. Haniger said he just isn’t feeling right to compete at a high level and is hoping the medication will allow him to return in the next few days.

Murfee never appeared in a game during his call-up.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get (Murfee) in the game last night,” Servais said. “… But he’ll probably be back, he’s throwing the ball great and he’s a good dude. I really like where he’s at.”

Injury updates

Outfielder Kyle Lewis made a significant step in his recovery from season-ending knee surgery in 2021. Per president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto, Lewis was recently cleared to start playing in instructional league games in Arizona at extended spring training and is “making good progress.”


Lewis is seeing action as a designated hitter and in the outfield. Dipoto said he will go out on a formal rehab assignment, “sooner rather than later.”

First baseman Evan White, who underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia during spring training, is progressing in his recovery but has yet to be cleared to resume baseball activity, according to Dipoto.

In Tampa, Servais offered an update on a pair of relievers that have been on the injured list:

  • Right-handed pitcher Sergio Romo (shoulder inflammation) has resumed playing catch. The hope was that he might join the team in Houston for the final series of the road trip. But Servais said it’s possible that Romo will need at least one rehab outing.
  • Right-handed pitcher Ken Giles (strained middle finger tendon) was recently cleared to pick up a baseball and resume throwing. He will need a full buildup in his throwing progression and a rehab assignment before returning to the Mariners.

Andy McKay, the Mariners director of player development, also had updates on three of the Mariners prospects:

  • Right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock, the Mariners’ No. 4 prospect and first-round pick in 2020, suffered a right lat strain during minor league minicamp in February. He has progressed into his throwing program enough to where he could join a minor league affiliate.
  • Right-handed pitcher Sam Carlson, who started the season on the injured list with left knee patella tendinitis, is also on a similar timeline to join an affiliate and start his season.
  • Outfielder Taylor Trammell, who suffered a severe hamstring strain with Class AAA Tacoma in the second game of the season, is rehabbing at the team facility in Arizona and is 5-6 weeks away from returning to the Rainiers.