Huard: Mariners’ Mitch Haniger sends important reminder with powerful start
The focus as the Mariners begin this season has mainly been on players new to the team, like offseason acquisitions Robbie Ray, Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier, or the younger, up and coming players like Julio Rodríguez, Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert.
Three things that jump out from Mariners’ 2-1 start to season
Three games into the campaign, though, there’s one player back from the 90-win team last season that has sent a message with his play, according to Brock Huard.
“I think Mitch Haniger is reminding everybody that as excited as you are about the young Mariners in the stable, there is something about a salty, old, tested, gritty vet that has been through the wringer and has battled significant injury,” Huard said during Monday during his daily segment on Seattle Sports Station’s Mike Salk Show.
Now a FOX Sports football analyst, Huard has watched the Mariners closely since 2010 when he became a Seattle Sports radio host alongside Salk, and that includes each year since Haniger joined the M’s in a trade before the 2017 season. Haniger missed half of the 2019 season and all of 2020 due to injury, but he returned last year with his best season in the power department, smacking 39 homers and driving in 100 runs while maintaining a .253/.318/.485 slash line (.804 OPS). And perhaps most important, he stayed healthy all year to play in 157 of Seattle’s 162 games.
Haniger picked right up over the weekend where he left off in 2021, hitting homers in both Friday’s season opener against the Twins and Sunday’s third game of the four-game series. He goes into Monday’s 4:40 p.m. finale on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM having gone 3 for 12 (.250) with five RBIs, with each of his hits going for extra bases, including a two-run homer in his first plate appearance that produced all the runs the M’s needed in their win Friday.
“I think he just reminded everybody right out the gate, the first three games, that when he is right, he is the All-Star,” Huard said of Haniger. “When he is right, he’s the 30 to 40 home run guy, 120 RBI guy.”
What a way to start! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/QGUEF92sDP
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 8, 2022
Haniger getting off on the right foot this season carries a lot of weight after the offseason column he wrote for The Players’ Tribune where he said the Mariners weren’t satisfied with winning 90 games in 2021 because they fell short of the playoffs, then vowed that they would make the postseason. There’s also a sense of urgency to those comments as he is set to be a free agent this fall.
Mitch Haniger: Mariners want to have a team “that gets the city excited”
He’s walking the walk, as Huard pointed to a Monday morning tweet from Luke Arkins of Prospect Insider that highlighted the eight hardest-hit balls by the Mariners so far. Haniger not only is atop the list, but he appears on it twice as many times as any of his teammates.
“Four of the eight hardest-hits balls by the Mariners this weekend were Mitch Haniger, so I think that was just a little tasty reminder to everybody that experience matters, that having that old salt on a boat or in the dugout matters, and I was proud of him for jumping out to such a hot start.”
Listen to Huard’s full discussion with guest host Mike Lefko in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below. You can catch Huard live on The Mike Salk Show at 7:45 a.m. Monday through Friday on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM.
Watch: Julio Rodriguez’s first MLB hit starts M’s rally in comeback win