Mariners Updates: Justin Upton near debut, latest on Haniger, Lewis

Jun 16, 2022, 11:51 AM
Mariners Justin Upton...
Justin Upton hits a two-run home run off for the Angels against the Mariners on May 5, 2018. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ outfield hasn’t looked like they hoped this season.

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While 21-year-old rookie Julio Rodríguez has lived up to his phenom status, not much else has gone according to plan. Mitch Haniger, perhaps the team’s best run producer, has been out since April with a high-ankle sprain. Kyle Lewis began the year on the injured list still recovering from knee surgery and hasn’t played since sustaining a concussion on May 28. Jarred Kelenic was demoted to Triple-A due to prolonged struggles at the plate, and key offseason acquisition Jesse Winker has fallen well short of his career norms in his first season with Seattle.

Where does that leave Seattle’s outfield? Well, Haniger and Lewis are expected back at some point, while the team signed veteran Justin Upton out of free agency last month. Thursday on Seattle Sports’ Jerry Dipoto Show, the Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations provided the latest on those three players. Here’s a look at what he had to say.

Justin Upton

It may not be long before the Mariners debut of the 34-year-old Upton, a four-time All-Star who last played for the Angels in 2021 when he posted a .211/.296/.409 slash line with 17 home runs in 89 games. He needed time to get up to speed after signing with the Mariners, first going to extended spring training in Arizona then joining Triple-A Tacoma on June 1.

“This was spring training for Justin,” Dipoto said. “We talked about it when we signed him – he was released by the Angels in the early part of spring training and we signed him with the idea that we were going to give him the time to recreate those reps.”

Upton didn’t start off strong with the Rainiers, going 4 for 33 (.121) in his first eight games, but he has gone 5 for 12 (.417) over his last three games.

“You can see in the statline that it didn’t go particularly well on the front end,” Dipoto said. He very quickly dove into the Triple-A pool and it wasn’t that easy to catch up to speed, but here over the last week we’re starting to see some really good signs. I think he’s tracking the ball better, he feels more comfortable, and I suspect we’re gonna see him here soon.”

Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis

High-ankle sprains are a notoriously tricky injury to make estimates for professional athletes to come back from, so the Mariners and Haniger are still playing the waiting game.

“I still really can’t provide you with a timeline,” Dipoto said, “but we are encouraged by the progress that he’s making. He is starting to do some light baseball stuff, which is a positive. Fingers crossed (that) we’re getting closer to the finish line, but right now we just don’t know where that is, which is one of the more frustrating things to deal with – just moving toward an end goal that you really don’t know where the line is.”

Though Dipoto has not put a timeline on Haniger’s return at all since the injury, it was reported by The Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish last month that the one-time All-Star outfielder could be out until July.

Dipoto said they’re also working without a timeline with Lewis, who suffered a concussion when he was hit in the head by a pitch in just his fourth game of the season on May 28.

“I can say the same about our position right now with Kyle Lewis – we just don’t know, and we’re taking it day by day trying to help those players get to the point where they are healthy and comfortable,” he said. “We’ll have to live without timelines and just move with some hope.”

It is expected Lewis will need a rehab assignment in the minor leagues before rejoining the Mariners after he clears concussion protocol.

You can listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show, which airs live at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday on Seattle Sports during The Mike Salk Show, in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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