The Mariners first baseman has shown some power in his first season in Seattle, but recent struggles, and with Robinson Cano returning from suspension, could cost him his spot in the lineup.
“Helmets would break. Bats would break. Fortunately, I never broke any bones.”
That was Ryon Healy discussing his younger self, who wasn’t one to suppress his frustration. The Mariners first baseman used to terrorize inanimate objects if he were to perform below his standards.
He says he has calmed down since, thus limiting his “physical blowups.” But in a game where even the best hitters in the world fail more than they succeed, Healy’s mind still tends to bully him.
“Emotionally, he gets really high, and he gets really low,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of the 26 year old. “It’s such a long season and that can really wear you out.”
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Healy wasn’t in the Mariners’ starting lineup Saturday. When a player’s batting average dips to .238, and his on-base percentage plunges to .268 (the seventh worst in MLB among qualified batters) the brass is going to look for production elsewhere.
So up came Daniel Vogelbach, who will face the White Sox’s pitchers while Healy faces the facts — something isn’t working, and he needs to fix it.
How would you evaluate your season so far? I asked Healy.
“That’s a good question. I’ve been trying really hard not to do that. But I think some realities have kind of forced me to do so,” he said. “I think I’ve done some really good things for this team. I’ve driven in some big runs, hit a lot of homers, and I think I’ve played some really good defense. But I also think there is so much that I can get better at. And that’s my issue. I think I want to be the perfect big-league player right now in my second full season instead of understanding ‘Ryon Healy is still developing.’ “
Here’s the good: Healy hit 18 home runs in the first half of the season, tallied 47 RBI and ripped a walk-off double in the 11th inning vs. the Angels. Here’s the bad: He has drawn one walk since June 25 and has only seven hits in his past 46 at-bats.
The main issue has been Healy’s approach at the plate. Servais said that opponents have been “pitching to his aggressiveness,” which is a diplomatic way of saying he’ll swing at anything.
This is where the mind can become the enemy. This is where desperation to emerge from a slump is the principal force in extending it.
“I forget how hard this game is sometimes. I get so stuck on how successful I want to be and how successful I’m going to be going forward — it’s just sometimes hard to stay present and stay positive through the really bad times,” Healy said. “Sometimes you hang on to the bad longer than you’d like to, sometimes you let the good go too early … it’s learning not to let the results of the game dictate who you are as a player day in and day out.”
The right-handed Healy will likely get his starting spot back Tuesday, as the Mariners are expected to face left-handed pitcher Andrew Suarez of the Giants. But the team’s plans for him for the rest of the season is murky.
Robinson Cano is eligible to return from his suspension on Aug. 14, and because Servais doesn’t want to move Dee Gordon back to center field from second base, the slugger may play at first. In fact, the only possible way to prevent that scenario is Healy going on the tear of his career over the next three weeks.
But he can’t think about that right now. He knows he is a 26-year-old playing one the most humbling sports out there. He knows about the Randy Johnsons and Justin Turners of the world — guys who went from mediocre to magnificent once they figure out the game.
Is this a case where you just have to “trust the process,” as they say?
“Yes. But the God’s honest truth is that’s the hardest thing in the world to do because you never know where the process is going to take you,” Healy said. “But you have to trust that if you do the process the right way it will take you where you want to go.”
Healy seems like good people. Honest. Candid. Respectful. He doesn’t break bats and helmets as much as he used to, but he’s the kind of guy you’d like to see break out of this funk.