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Mariners Takeaways: Scott Servais on Mitch Haniger’s status, key to Jake Fraley’s breakout

Jake Fraley enters Tuesday with a staggering 21 walks in 73 plate appearances. (Getty)

Mariners manager Scott Servais joined 710 ESPN Seattle for his weekly show Tuesday afternoon with Jake and Stacy and Mariners insider Shannon Drayer.

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Servais discussed a myriad of topics, including some injury updates, how baseball plans to deal with pitchers using sticky substances, and a pair of hitters finding their grooves. Here’s a look at what stood out from this week’s Scott Servais Show.

Mariners injury updates

Mitch Haniger is out of Seattle’s lineup for the second straight game Tuesday, but Servais does not seem worried that the bruise he suffered when he fouled a pitch off his left knee Sunday will linger for too long.

“We’re going to give him another day,” Servais said. “He is feeling much better, and walking around the clubhouse without a limp yesterday was a very positive sign. I mean, he really smoked that left knee with that foul ball the other day in Cleveland. I’m hopeful he moves around a little bit today, maybe gets a little baseball activity in today whether he gets in the cage or not. It truly is day-to-day with seeing how he feels.”

Haniger, the Mariners’ regular right fielder, leads the team in home runs (17), slugging (.518) and OPS (.828). Servais added that wants to be consistent with giving Haniger time to rest throughout the season, including roughly one game as the designated hitter each series. Haniger came into the year having not played since midseason 2019 due to injuries and recovery time from multiple surgeries.

Another Mariners outfielder coming off of surgery is Kyle Lewis, who underwent a procedure last week to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, which was previously surgically-repaired early in his pro career. Servais had good news to report on the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year.

“Kyle Lewis will be back at some point,” he said, meaning by the end of this season. “… No timeline on that at all, but we’ve got a lot of baseball left to play.”

That’s true. The M’s (33-35) will play just the 69th game of their 162-game season when they take on Minnesota at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday night (coverage on 710 ESPN Seattle begins at 6 p.m. with the pregame show).

Jake Fraley’s emergence

The Mariners have plenty of big-name outfielders in their system, so it’s surprising that the outfielder who has been turning heads the most with his play as of late is Jake Fraley, who had sort of become the forgotten man in the mix.

Fraley has given people plenty of reason to watch him closely as of late. There are the four homers he hit in a 10-game span, his staggering 21 walks compared to 14 hits in 73 plate appearances, or that play he made to steal what would have been a Tigers walkoff homer in Detroit last week.

Servais said he saw Fraley, 26, come into spring training with a completely different mindset than in 2019 and 2020, and it’s something he believes has made a world of difference.

“I go back to spring training and how the season started, he was really in a different frame of mind (than before). I think his headspace was much different this year than any other point we’ve seen him as he’s been around us at the big league level,” Servais said. “He was just going to enjoy every day, try to learn as much as he can, be very grateful for the opportunity he’s had, and sometimes when you put your head in the right spot, your body follows. And he has played great. I can’t say enough.

“That catch he made over in Detroit to save that game for us, and then what he’s done at the plate, drawing the walks, he’s showing some power – he’s just been really consistent. We just have to keep him healthy.”

That hasn’t always been easy for Fraley, including this year as he missed over a month with a hamstring injury before returning on May 31.

“Unfortunately we lost him for a while with that pretty serious hamstring issue and (I’m) trying to give him some DH days and give him some down days, but seems like you can’t keep him out of there. He’s been hot as heck and it’s great to see him play the way he is.”

Jake Heaps asked Servais for more detail on what Fraley’s mindset looks like from the outside, which revealed a little more about the third-year outfielder.

“What I’ve seen with him, and it has been very noticeable really from day 1, he’s much more outgoing with his teammates,” he said. “Just the conversations myself and the coaching staff are able to have with him, he just wants to be part of the team, whatever role it is, whenever his name is called, whenever his name is in the lineup he’s going to do the best that he can. And then when he goes home, he’s got a great young family – be the best dad he can be, be the best husband he can be. And when you get in that headspace, oftentimes things start coming a little bit easier for you on the field, and I think that’s what we’re seeing. A ton of credit goes to him. He is playing great.”

Dylan Moore finding his groove

Another player who hit the ground running after a recent stint on the injured list is second baseman Dylan Moore, who delivered a key RBI triple in Monday’s 4-3 M’s win over Minnesota. Servais said Moore has been able to continue positive developments at the plate from prior to suffering a calf strain.

“D-Mo’s made some nice adjustments. I thought he was swinging the bat actually pretty well before he got hurt. He came back and he’s been really good. He got a big hit for us last night, he swung the bat well over in Cleveland.”

Seattle has a number of players who could return soon from the IL, and Servais pointed to Moore as an example of how they can be successful when inserted back into the Mariners’ lineup.

“The biggest thing when guys come back, they’re fresh, they’re excited, the adrenaline is pumping again and they want to make up for the time lost in like two or three swings of the bat. It doesn’t really work that way. You have to be patient, you have to grind out your at-bats, and eventually it will start paying off for you. … When they do get back, you don’t want to have them try to do too much. Just fit in and play their game.”

You can hear catch The Scott Servais Show at 1 p.m. every Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle. Listen to this week’s full episode, including an in-depth conversation with the M’s skipper about foreign substances used by pitchers and what he’s learned about how MLB plans to address it, at this link or in the player below.

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