Mariners GM Dipoto: Kyle Lewis’ timeline, roster moves coming

May 5, 2022, 11:17 AM | Updated: 12:53 pm
Mariners Kyle Lewis...
Mariners OF Kyle Lewis celebrates with Mitch Haniger after a home run in Oakland on May 24, 2021. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Mariners return home Thursday night after a tough road trip, and changes are coming for the 12-13 team.

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On a positive but not immediate note, Seattle is getting closer to the return of outfielder Kyle Lewis, who hasn’t played in a big league game since last May when he tore the meniscus in his right knee.

Lewis, 26, started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday night and immediately announced his presence in what was actually his first ever Triple-A game (he leaped straight to MLB from Double-A in late 2019), crushing a 464-foot homer in his first trip to the plate for the Rainiers.

On the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show with the Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations Thursday morning on Seattle Sports Station, Dipoto provided a timeline for when Lewis could be back with the M’s and provided insight into how Lewis’ recovery has been going behind the scenes over the last month.

“I’m very excited that he’s back on the field,” Dipoto said. “This actually started probably about three weeks ago, so he’s been playing in games in Arizona (during extended spring training) where there were no box scores and the games weren’t being tracked (on) social media the way they are in Tacoma. Our hope is (Tuesday’s home run was) the first sign that he’s on his way back. He’s going to play regularly toggling back and forth between DH and left field for the most part.”

Dipoto said the Mariners are trying to “replicate” spring training for Lewis to make sure he’s fully up to speed, and the plan is for him to be back sometime this month.

“I can’t tell you exactly how many at-bats he had down in Arizona but it wasn’t a small number. He has had some reps, and we’re trying to replicate spring training for him and just get him up to game speed. At a general level, these rehab assignments account for about 20 days, so from the time he started his rehab, which was on Tuesday in Salt Lake, you’ve got 20 days to wrap it up, and that would roughly land us about the third week in May for his return to the big leagues. And while it might be a day or two shorter than that, that’s the timeline. So sometime in the next 2 1/2, three weeks or so, you’ll see Kyle Lewis back on the field at T-Mobile (Park) and hopefully everything is smooth until that point. We’ve had a lot of starts and stops with Kyle and we want to just let him and his body tell us when he’s ready to contribute, but it sure did look good that first day out.”

While Lewis’ return is a few weeks out still, moves did occur Thursday afternoon, the most notable being rookie starting pitcher Matt Brash optioned to Tacoma. On Thursday morning, Dipoto confirmed the Mariners would shake up their roster, and while he didn’t provide details on what was coming, he did hint at some younger players being assigned to the minors. He also provided an inside look at why he thinks many prospects, not just the Mariners, are having a tough time getting comfortable this season in the big leagues.

Here’s a full look at what Dipoto had to say about that topic:

“Part of the reason why the minor leagues exist is to is to develop players fully, and this generation of player, the youngest players, the young stars who are trying to break into the game today, are at a disadvantage unlike any class of player before them – truly. And that is the loss of the 2020 season, it’s the truncated summer in 2020 with 50 plate appearances versus the same pitchers day after day, and 20 innings pitched in a season for your best pitching prospects. That really hindered development. So it’s not shocking to me that some of our best young prospects – and that many of the best young prospects around baseball – are really struggling to get over that big league hump because… this pandemic has cost them an entire season in 2020, another month of the ’21 season, and it knocked their development. So we want to be patient but we also want to understand that they may not be fully developed yet, and we’re going to use the minor leagues as an aid in that. You’ve seen it in what we did a week ago in optioning (catcher) Cal Raleigh (to Triple-A).

“We will take that route more aggressively than we have in the last couple of years. We do want to win in the big leagues, and the performance does matter day to day, but we also want to make sure that we throw the player the life preserver when he needs it and give him the opportunity to go back and just reset, take a breath. It’s hard to learn these lessons at the highest level against the best players in the world night after night when you’re seeing the Shane McClanahans and Justin Verlanders and Drew Rasmussens and Sandy Alcantaras night after night after night. It can get on you, and sometimes it’s OK to take a reset when you’re at the start of your career.”

You can hear the full Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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Mariners GM Dipoto: Kyle Lewis’ timeline, roster moves coming