OAKLAND, Calif. — While the Mariners have been away from T-Mobile Park, outfielder Kyle Lewis, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, has been diligently working to come off the injured list and contribute in the final month of the season.
“Kyle has picked up his baseball activity quite a bit,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He is shagging balls in the outfield and getting his throwing arm up and going. Hopeful that maybe this weekend to start a rehab assignment for him. That’s the latest I heard. Not definite there, but that’s kind of what’s been thrown around here recently, as he’s feeling much better.”
The rehab stint would start with some games at designated hitter and build him up into game shape and playing in the field.
“Certainly you want to get his legs under him and get his timing down,” Servais said. “Also, understanding that we’re almost into September here. So that the clock starts ticking a little bit once you get to Sept. 1 and whether players are going to be able to come back and be able to help and impact a club. We certainly want to make sure he’s completely healthy, and he feels good about where his game is at before we would consider activating him here with the major league team. I’m looking forward to eventually getting him back.”
Viewed as a key part of the Mariners’ rebuilding plan, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 2020 and was expected to be a middle of the order presence in 2021.
But he suffered a bone bruise in the same right knee during 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. 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.
The surgery was the third for his right knee.
He suffered tears to his anterior cruciate ligament as well as his medial and lateral meniscus on a play at the plate just months after the Mariners selected him with the 11th pick of the 2016 draft. It would require reconstructive surgery.
Lewis would undergo another arthroscopic surgery to clean up some issues in the knee before the 2018 season. But following that procedure, Lewis remained healthy and played without any significant health issues until this season.
Slumps and struggles
When Jarred Kelenic singled into left field off A’s starter Paul Blackburn, it snapped a streak of 24 consecutive plate appearances without a hit. His last hit was a solo home run off Blue Jays reliever Trevor Richards on Aug. 14. During that hitless run, Kelenic struck out nine times with just four walks.
“Jarred had a really good last homestand,” Servais said. “On this road trip, he hasn’t had as much go his way and certainly teams pitch him a little bit tougher. He hasn’t got a ton of pitches to hit. Houston threw really good pitching at us. They have a really good ability to execute the game plan. When he did get pitches to hit, he didn’t get it in play.”
Kelenic isn’t the only one struggling. Outfielder Jake Fraley has not been the productive, on-base machine before going on the COVID-19 injured list. He missed 15 games and hasn’t been the same hitter.
He has a .145/.230/.218 slash line in the 19 games and 61 plate appearances since returning. He has eight hits with a double, a homer, four RBI, six walks and 18 strikeouts.
“Jake was playing great and Jake’s calling card really was his ability to control the strike zone,” Servais said. “He just wasn’t chasing at all and working through some tough at-bats and got a lot of big hits for us. No question.”
The 15 games missed on the IL and in the rehab stint after had an effect.
“It’s really the disrupted his season and certainly affected his timing a little bit,” Servais said. “I think he’s showing some signs of coming out of that. And I do feel good about having him out there. Jake’s whole game is really driven by his ability to not chase, to control the strikes zone and to make pitchers come to him.”