Drayer: Evan White returns to Mariners with newfound perspective

Mar 17, 2022, 7:03 PM

Mariners Evan White...

Mariners 1B Evan White warms up before a game against the Orioles on May 4, 2021. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

This time last year, Evan White was taking reps with the infield starters in Mariners camp, getting ready to rebound from a mixed rookie season where he won the Gold Glove at first base but hit just .176/.252/.362 for a .638 OPS.

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With the 2021 season dedicated to getting young players experience the Mariners could afford to give White that opportunity, but injury put an end to another subpar season with the bat just 30 games in.

Placed on the 10-day injured list May 14 with a strained hip flexor, White tried to rehab the injury in hopes of resuming his season at some point. On July 16, however, it was announced he would undergo season-ending hip labrum surgery.

“I think it was the best decision for me and the team to get the surgery done,” White said this week at Mariners spring training in Peoria, Ariz. “I wasn’t able to do what I needed to do out there so I think it made sense to have the surgery done and be able to come in here healthy and ready to go.”

White came into camp a full-go, his recovery complete but first base no longer his. His reps are now taken on Field 2 with players that will likely be depth kept at Triple-A. If that is a tough pill to swallow, White is not showing it. He sees himself in a much better place than the last time he was on a baseball field as he comes into this season with a healthy hip and newfound perspective.

“You can hear the greatest advice in the world, but if you aren’t ready to hear it you are not ready to put it into practice, put it in your everyday life,” he said of his recent learning.

That advice? Just have fun. It may sound cliché, but for White, some of the things that were keeping him from having fun last year were also hindering his game. A forced step back opened his eyes to this.

“You could have told me that last year – it was like, I understand I need to have fun but it’s tough. I’m trying to grind. I know I’m not playing to the level I know how to play at. I put too much pressure on myself because I already had a bad year. It’s, ‘OK, you have got to get going this year” and stuff like that instead of trusting the work, trusting the process and just enjoying the moment.”

Offseason work should help with the process. Unable to work with Mariners coaches during the MLB-imposed 99-day lockout, White talked with his college hitting coach at Kentucky, former MLB hitting coach Rick Eckstein, about simplifying, ultimately getting more into his legs, and getting back to what he believes he is at the plate: a line-drive hitter. He also spent a few weeks hitting with J.P. Crawford and the person who currently occupies the position he won a Gold Glove at for the Mariners, Ty France. Needless to say, there are no hard feelings.

“Ty’s a heck of a player and a heck of a person,” said White. “For him to come out here and be willing to talk to me from the hitting side of things, that says a lot to me about his character. I love being around Ty. He’s a heck of a ballplayer. That doesn’t change anything.”

Nor should it. White understands where he is, what he can control and what he can’t. He also sees how things sped up on him last year and how he got out of his game. While injury took him from the field and opportunity, in his eyes it left him with a perspective that could prove valuable.

“Trust your preparation,” he said. “That’s something I obviously had a lot of time to do. Get out there, get out of my own way and have my own fun with it. That stuff at the end of the day, I can’t control it. Whatever is going to happen will happen.”

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