Mitch Haniger is ready to return to the starting lineup on Wednesday night.
“That’s my plan,” he said.
But will his plans align with the Mariners’ plans, specifically that of manager Scott Servais?
“I think so,” he said with a mischievous smile.
It shouldn’t be difficult for Servais to be convinced to write his best hitter into the starting lineup.
But Servais was somewhat cautiously optimistic in his pregame media session.
“He’s not in the lineup today,” Servais said. “He’s feeling much better and I say that, but he’s not ready to play yet. But again, it clearly is just day to day, he’ll maybe get into some light baseball activity after he gets his treatments done today and we’ll have a better idea at that point. He might be available tomorrow in a limited role.”
Servais made those comments before the team did their typical pregame workout. Haniger took fly balls in right field, showing no limp or inability to run down balls.
He also took a full session of batting practice and did some running on the bases.
“Yeah, I felt good,” he said.
Admittedly, he didn’t feel great Sunday, when he fouled a 92 mph fastball from Cleveland’s Shane Bieber off the inside of his left knee in his first at-bat of the game.
It crumpled him to the ground.
“That one sucked pretty good,” he said. “That was probably the worst one I’ve had.”
Haniger then acknowledged that the 93 mph fastball from Justin Verlander that he fouled off into his cupless groin almost two years ago to the day obviously had much worse ramifications, including a ruptured testicle and multiple surgeries that followed.
“Obviously, the things that happened with the previous one made it bad,” he said. “But the instant pain was much worse with this one. The other one, the pain slowly kept on coming. But this one, the pain was so bad and it slowly got better.”
In the moment, Haniger feared for the worst — a crack or fracture to the knee. He didn’t want another season sidetracked by a fluke incident.
“Oh, it definitely crossed my mind,” he said. “It was like, ‘please, God, just don’t make this a long-term thing again. I was expecting the worst and luckily it wasn’t.’ ”
After X-rays showed no fracture and a positive meeting with Cleveland’s team doctor, Haniger finally felt relief.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen right after,” Haniger said. “Right after it happened, I felt like my knee blew up. The doctor said it got me in a really good spot. It got all bone and not muscle and it was not on ligament. If it would’ve got me on the kneecap alone, it would have been terrible.”
Haniger’s fears were alleviated some before the game even ended.
“It was maybe in the seventh and eighth inning of the game and I was able to put pressure on it and walk around on it,” Haniger said. “I knew I was good, and it’s only got better.”
When he woke up Monday, Haniger woke up “feeling pretty good” and knew he didn’t need a stint on the injured list.
Because of his past recoveries from multiple surgeries, he’s become a big believer in modern rehab technology, which he credits to the quick recovery.
“I’ve been using the pulsed electromagnetic therapy and electronic stimulation,” he said. “That’s been really helpful.”
Servais will be happy to get Haniger back without an extended absence, whether it’s Wednesday as Haniger prefers or Thursday. Haniger has a .259/.310/.518 slash line with 15 doubles, a triple, 16 homers and 40 RBI in 274 plate appearances.
“He’s been very valuable guy for us,” Servais said. “He’s been our most consistent player throughout the year. He means so much in our clubhouse with how he goes about his work every day. He’s a really big part of our leadership group here. We’ve missed not having him in there. But hopefully, it’s not going to be too many games. Again, no timeline, no set date.”
Well, Haniger has a date set and it’s Wednesday.