HOUSTON — The 2021 season has ended for Kyle Lewis.
On Monday, manager Scott Servais ended any speculation or hope that the reigning American League Rookie of the Year might return to help the Mariners push their way into the postseason for the first time since 2001.
Another bone bruise to Lewis’ troublesome right knee has scuttled his potential comeback.
“He’s gonna shut it down,” Servais said in Tuesday’s pregame media session. “He’s got to get that knee to calm down and that bone bruise to calm down. I think everything’s going to be perfectly fine, but that’s the decision I think we’ve come to here.”
After undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee June 9, Lewis was on track to return for the final weeks of the season. The bone bruise was a result of some running workouts that Lewis did Aug. 29. As part of the final hurdles he needed to clear before being sent out on a rehab assignment, Lewis was running the bases at full intensity and then participated in a sliding drill on a pad in the outfield. The impact of sliding seemed to cause the injury.
“I suspect that’s how it happened,” Servais said. “I don’t know exactly. The last couple days before he was getting ready to go out on the rehab, he really picked up the intensity of running the bases. The little sliding thing on the pad is nothing more than a formality. We do it with all of our guys. Coming back the next day, he felt sore. Having some other people look at it, and seeing where it was at right now, that’s what was determined.”
Before that setback, Lewis was expected to start a rehab assignment with the hope of rejoining the team for the final weeks of the season. But there isn’t enough time to rehab with hope of returning.
“He’s really frustrated,” Servais said. “He had such a great season last year, and I think we all understand what he can do for your lineup. He’s a super-talented player. Injuries happen, they are part of the game. And it is frustrating. These guys want to play. They want to be a part of it.”
It wasn’t for a lack of effort. By multiple accounts, Lewis was diligent in his effort to get back.
“I do commend him,” Servais said. “He did everything he could to try to get back as soon as he could. But we were going through the right protocols, we wanted to make sure he was 100% before he went out on a rehab assignment. You go through all the steps with our high performance group and our training staff to make sure he can hit all those check marks.”
Given his history of issues with that right knee, which now includes three surgeries, the Mariners are smart to be cautious with his recovery.
“If this was the situation in June, it’d be different,” Servais said.
After his award-winning performance in 2020, when he played in 58 of the 60 scheduled games, posting a .262/.364/.437 slash line with three doubles, 11 homers, 28 RBI and five stolen bases in 127 plate appearances, Lewis was supposed to be a middle of the order presence this season.
However, he suffered a bone bruise to his right knee during a Cactus League game in the last week of spring training, forcing him to start the season on the injured list.
After missing the first 17 games this season, he returned to the lineup and started slowly, trying to find his timing at the plate after the long layoff.
Playing in his 36th game of the season on Memorial Day at T-Mobile Park, he tried to make a difficult leaping catch during the eighth inning, landing awkwardly on that right knee. He was removed from the game and diagnosed with a torn meniscus.
In those games before the meniscus tear, Lewis posted a .246/.333/.392 slash line with four doubles, five homers and 11 RBI in 147 plate appearances. Over his last 10 games, he had a .289/.341/.500 slash line with two doubles, two homers and five RBI in 41 plate appearances.
“You just know how electric that bat is and what kind of player he is,” Servais said. “We saw it last year. It hurts knowing he’s not in there. But nobody feels worse about it than he does. I know Kyle and how he’s wired, his work ethic and how much he loves being a part of what we’ve got going on here. He’s going to be a big part of this going forward. It’s just not going to happen this year.”