Mariners’ Dipoto updates progress of Mitch Haniger, Julio Rodríguez injuries
The Mariners are still one of the hottest teams in baseball despite two losses to the Giants this week and are just a couple games out of a playoff spot, but there is some notable news regarding two big-name outfielders who aren’t with the big league club as they recover from injury.
Mitch Haniger, a 2018 All-Star, and prized prospect Julio Rodríguez are both working to get back to full strength after injuries caused a blow to their 2020 growth. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto provided updates on both of those players during his weekly segment with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Thursday, starting with the veteran.
Haniger, 29, broke out in a big way in 2018, slashing .285/.366/.493 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs to finish 11th in the American League MVP voting. After that season, the Mariners began their rebuild and decided to hold on to Haniger and young starting pitcher Marco Gonzales as Dipoto saw them as young pieces to build the team around.
Unfortunately for Haniger, he struggled early in 2019 and his season ended after just 63 games when he suffered a ruptured testicle on a foul ball at the plate, requiring surgery.
The health troubles were just beginning for Hainger, as he had two offseason surgeries on a torn muscle in his groin area, which happened as he rehabbed from the initial surgery, and a herniated disc in his back, which was caused by the torn groin muscle. The two surgeries put a big dent into his 2020 aspirations even before the season was shortened to 60 games due to COVID-19. Because of roster rules and regulations for 2020, Dipoto said the Mariners haven’t seen too much of Haniger this year.
“Because of the 60-player bubble, Mitch is not with us day to day and he’s rehabbing (away from the team),” he told Danny and Gallant. “He is in the Seattle area and is, as we understand, progressing very well. Our physical therapists keep in touch with the people who are working with Mitch and he seems to be in a good place and progressing better than he has at any point through this.”
Dipoto said that Hainger’s road to recovery from the two surgeries in 2020 has been more difficult than anyone anticipated. And though Haniger has been out of the picture for a while and the Mariners have added some top outfield talent to their farm system, Dipoto said Haniger will still play a big role for the team going forward.
“That’s a lot to deal with and not surprisingly, it’s taking quite a bit of time for him to bounce back from it,” Dipoto said, “and we are going to remain patient because we’ve seen what can happen on the other side when Mitch is healthy and playing well. We still feel like he’s very much a part of what we’re doing moving forward.”
In the case of Rodríguez, he suffered a hairline fracture in his left wrist while diving for a ball at the Mariners’ summer camp in June. Rodríguez wasn’t expected to make his MLB debut in 2020 but the injury has caused him to not play in any intrasquad games at the team’s alternate training site in Tacoma.
Dipoto said Rodríguez’s presence has been big in Tacoma and he’s close to full strength a few weeks after his cast was removed.
“He’s a wonderful young guy who energizes his teammates,” Dipoto said. “He hasn’t gotten any reps to this point because he started out with the broken hand and that was something that was unavoidable during the summer camp. He’s now out of the cast, he’s going through baseball drills, he’s actually been released to go out and play defense now.”
As far as swinging the bat, Rodríguez is close to letting it loose.
“He’s doing a lot of one-hand and top-hand swings,” Dipoto said. “We’re still trying to make sure we slowly move into unleashing his full swing velocity, but I think that’s coming in the next week or so.”
It’s unclear if Rodríguez will ultimately get full game reps at the Mariners’ alternate training site at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, but Dipoto said they anticipate Rodríguez playing in games sometime over the next two months.
“We’re hopeful with the idea that we’re going to be able to play some type of player development season over the course of September and perhaps October and beyond,” Dipoto said. “That’s encouraging and I think that will give us a chance to get Julio back on the board as well as a lot of our other young players.”
Listen to the entire interview with Dipoto at this link or in the player below starting at the 26:18 mark.