Mariners Updates: Ty France back from IL; latest on Haniger, Lewis

Jul 7, 2022, 9:40 AM | Updated: 2:59 pm
Mariners Ty France...
Ty France smiles during a Mariners game T-Mobile Park on June 15. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ lineup is about to get a boost, and it starts Thursday night in the opener of their huge home series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

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M’s general manager and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto told Seattle Sports on Thursday morning that first baseman Ty France, the Mariners’ top All-Star candidate, should be activated from the injured list this weekend, with the hope that it would happen in time for Thursday’s 7:10 p.m. game vs. the Jays. That’s exactly what happened Thursday afternoon, with Seattle activating France and optioning outfielder Marcus Wilson to Triple-A Tacoma.

France will hit second in the lineup and DH on Thursday night.

Asked Thursday morning by Mike Salk on the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show if fans will see France in Seattle’s lineup this weekend, Dipoto’s response was to the point: “Yes.”

That led to Salk asking if France will be back as soon as Thursday. The answer: “You very well should.”

France has been out of action since he suffered a strained left elbow on June 23 in a game against the Athletics in Oakland. He came off the bag in an attempt to catch a throw that was offline, and his glove arm ended up in an awkward collision with A’s runner Sheldon Neuse. With France returning after missing only 12 games, it should be considered a pretty significant win for the M’s.

The 27-year-old France owns a .316/.390/.476 slash line for an .867 OPS with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 70 games this season. He is one of two finalists in the race to be the American League All-Star starter at first base, though he trailed Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the latest voting update, which was released Wednesday. It is likely he will earn his first career All-Star nod as a reserve, though.

France will return to a somewhat new-look Mariners lineup. Following his injury, Seattle made a trade with Kansas City for veteran first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana, who has gone 6 for 25 (.240) with six walks in eight games since joining the M’s.

The Mariners should have even more reinforcements rejoining their lineup in the coming weeks. Dipoto is hopeful both Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis will follow France in returning from the IL before August.

“I would feel pretty confident in saying that we’re optimistic that all three of those players should be in our lineup by the end of the month,” he said.

Let take a look at what else Dipoto specifically had to say about Haniger and Lewis.

• The addition of Santana is having an effect on what the Mariners are looking for from Lewis before bringing the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year back. Lewis, 26, has been out since suffering a concussion by being hit by a pitch on May 28, which was only his fourth game of the year following his recovery from a torn meniscus and subsequent knee surgery. At the time he was limited to playing DH as he wasn’t able to run 100%, but the outfield is now back in play, which will require an extended minor league rehab stint.

“Kyle is going to take a little while longer,” Dipoto said, “mostly because – and this one’s a little bit more complex – Kyle missed about a month trying to resolve concussion symptoms, and as he comes back, one of the things that did happen while he was gone was that Ty France was injured and that prompted us to go out and acquire Carlos Santana. And now the combination of France and Santana, we want to see Kyle play a little outfield before he comes back so that we can manage all of the at-bats in the lineup on the right days.

“We feel like if Kyle can stand out in the outfield for a couple of days in a week, that gives us that advantage. So it may not be as quick as it would be if he were just coming back as a DH, but we do believe that during this rehab, I think he’s excited for the opportunity to get back out there. He has looked great in his progression, especially the way he’s running.”

Lewis’ pro career has been slowed by injuries to his right knee, but Dipoto had a note of positivity about the status of that knee.

“It’s as exciting as I can remember feeling about the way Kyle’s running in the last couple of years, and hopefully he comes back as some contribution in the outfield and obviously he brings that bat with him, because that’s the big attraction.”

• Haniger, who was Seattle’s most productive hitter during their 90-win 2021 season, has played just nine games this year, first missing a stretch of games while on the COVID-19 IL and then landing on the regular IL before the end of April with a high-ankle sprain. He too will need a rehab assignment before returning to the M’s, but he appears to be rounding a corner.

“Mitch is making great progress. He’s hitting on the field every day, he’s fully into his baseball progression,” Dipoto said. “He’s missed a long stretch of games here and hasn’t played in months so it’s gonna take a while in rehab just for timing, you know, and learning to trust the way your body responds and bouncing back day to day.”

The Mariners (41-42) play four games this weekend against the Blue Jays at T-Mobile Park starting Thursday night. Toronto (45-38) is four games ahead of Seattle in the standings and currently sits in the third and final AL wild card playoff spot. Coverage of every M’s game is carried on Seattle Sports, the flagship station of the Mariners Radio Network, beginning roughly 70 minutes before first pitch.

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday during Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show. You can hear this week’s edition at this link or in the player below.

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