Are Mariners experiencing Kyle Lewis effect with his return to lineup?

May 31, 2022, 10:57 AM | Updated: 3:38 pm

Mariners Kyle Lewis...

Mariners DH Kyle Lewis reacts after his single against the Oakland A's on May 24. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners have had Kyle Lewis back on their roster for a week now, and so far the results have been promising.

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Limited to designated hitter after missing nearly a year due to a torn meniscus and reconstructive surgery on his right knee, Lewis has played four games, going 4 for 15 (.267) with two home runs. The Mariners split those four games, losing two to the Oakland Athletics and winning two over the Houston Astros, but it is somewhat interesting to note that the wins came in the games that Lewis homered.

Are the Mariners experiencing a Kyle Lewis effect? They’ve scored 19 runs when he’s been in the lineup, an average of 4.75 per game, a significant improvement over the 3.98 they’re averaging over the season entering Tuesday.

“It’s funny because what we’ve seen over his first three, four games is what we saw when he was first called up,” Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports said Monday on The Mike Salk Show. “He hits home runs in bunches so that possibility is always there.”

Lewis’ return has somewhat mirrored his arrival to the big leagues in 2019 when he became just the second player in MLB history to homer in each of his first three games. He started 2020 off with a bang, as well, homering off two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to kick off what would be a Rookie of the Year-winning season. Similarly, he circled the bases last Friday following another blast against Verlander, then homered again the next night to help Seattle clinch a series win over the division-leading Astros.

With that being said, Drayer said to keep expectations in check when it comes to Lewis, who has appeared in just 116 big league games even though he debuted nearly three years ago. One reason is that the 2020 season was shortened due to the pandemic, and another is his injury history.

“I’m gonna be honest with you, I need to see more of Kyle Lewis,” she said. “Yes, he was Rookie of the Year two years ago, but it was a two-month season. He had one great month and one not-so-great month.”

When he is in the lineup, though, it makes a noticeable impact, especially since he’s been hitting seventh to give Seattle a fearsome bat in the bottom third of the batting order.

“He happened to come in and he was on and he hits those home runs – the other team knows that anytime there is a possibility he could step up to the plate and do that so he absolutely is a threat in the lineup,” Drayer said. “Do the guys around him feel that? Yeah, they know they’re missing Mitch Haniger, they know they’re missing Tom Murphy, they know that Jarred Kelenic is not up right now, so any extra welcome force in that lineup helps and I’m sure that has an impact on everybody. But the biggest thing is it just lengthens that lineup a little bit more and it does put something in the head of the opposing pitchers and managers.”

Lewis’ arrival came at a time when the Mariners really needed a boost, and they can still use it sitting 20-28 and 10 1/2 games out in the American League West going into a road trip that begins Tuesday in Baltimore.

“I think the timing was just right. It’s a time where they have to turn things around,” Drayer said of Lewis’ return.

There is an elephant in the room when it comes to Lewis, however, and that is his availability. His knee appears to still be a ways off from being 100%, as can be seen when he’s on the bases (full-on sprinting does not seem to be something he’s capable of right now), and it’s the reason he won’t be playing the outfield any time soon. He will need regular days off, and as was the case Sunday when he did not pinch-hit late in a close game, his days off will be different from days off for other players. He also was not written into the lineup Tuesday in Baltimore, though that came with the news that he may need a seven-day concussion injured list stint due to being hit by a pitch that knocked his helmet off Saturday.

“It should be obvious that this is not a normal situation. If he were 100% right now, you’d see him running around in the outfield and that’s not even an option so they are taking what they can get from Kyle Lewis, and he’s going to dictate that,” Drayer said. “It’s how he feels, how that knee responds. We heard quite a bit, and if you were following what he was doing (on a rehab assignment in May) in Triple-A, if the knee didn’t always respond well when he played one game or two games in a row, he might have a couple of days off after that. I don’t think there is any way to predict exactly what it is, it’s just going to be a matter of how that knee is feeling to him and if he feels that he can go or not.

“Just keep in mind, his off days are going to be different than others. A lot of times if a guy has an off day he is available for pinch-hitting. If Kyle Lewis has an off day, they’re going to want him to take it off completely. If you have the off day, that doesn’t mean that you are not doing anything during the day and you get up 10 minutes before you might come into a game and get ready to hit; you still go through all of your work. They would prefer that Kyle not do that… so the option of him coming up and just pinch-hitting what would truly be cold is probably not a good idea. … Hopefully there’s a time in this season where he feels a little bit more confident with that knee, where that knee actually does feel better and he can push and give a little bit more, maybe even step up in a situation like that. But at this point of the game, you have to realize that he is still very much coming back. He’s not 100% with that knee.”

You can listen to Drayer’s full conversation with guest hosts Michael Bumpus and Mike Lefko in the podcast at this link or in the player below from Monday’s Mike Salk Show.

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Are Mariners experiencing Kyle Lewis effect with his return to lineup?