Mariners Notebook: Haniger’s big return, and which M’s can hoop?

Feb 25, 2024, 4:07 PM | Updated: 4:43 pm

Mariners Mitch Haniger...

Seattle Mariners RF Mitch Haniger celebrates a home run against the Nationals in 2022. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Of course he did.

In his first spring training at-bat since returning to the Seattle Mariners, Mitch Haniger walked to the plate to warm applause of the home crowd in Peoria, Ariz. After watching the first offering from Guardians starter Tyler Beede go by for a ball, Haniger put the oh so familiar swing on the next and sent it over the fence in left field.

Watch: Mitch Haniger homers in first AB back with Mariners

As he trotted around the bases, the crowd rose to their feet. Welcome back, Mitch.

“It’s awesome,” Haniger said in the clubhouse after exiting the game following his second at-bat. “I definitely missed playing in front of our fans so it’s cool to hear them, and I definitely heard them walking to the plate. It was a cool feeling.”

While he appreciated the ovation, he wasn’t putting too much into his first at-bat of the spring. It is, after all, spring training. And though the field is the same, what happens on it is not due to too many factors to count. Stats mean nothing, but eventual readiness and how he gets there is everything.

Spring training box score: Cleveland Guardians 8, Seattle Mariners 4

“For me, it’s just like being in control of my body, knowing my swing, knowing where I need to be and with the training staff, performance staff, Brownie and JD,” he said, referring to Mariners assistant coaches Brant Brown and Jarret DeHart. “I haven’t worked with people that are better than them. They know my body really well and they teach me things that I don’t know about myself.”

An example?

“In the past I used to try to really think about staying tall and for me and how I move, you don’t want to dive completely or lose posture too much. But I need to hinge more, and that’s the first thing they brought up to me is focus on doing this more in your load and it cleaned up a lot of stuff, which is cool. I have so much trust in them, which is great.”

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The Mariners want Haniger, who was the designated hitter in Seattle’s starting lineup on Sunday, to build slowly for the season, and he is on board for that plan. He likely will play every third day early in order to not build up any unnecessary wear and tear.

“As you get older, you just gotta be smarter about the workload to get what you need. It’s the experience and knowing yourself,” said the 33-year-old Haniger. “Why not be smart and cautious in the in the first week of spring? So I’m all-in for that.”

Which Seattle Mariners can shoot?

A little competition on the side has been a hallmark of Mariners manager Scott Servais’ spring camps. There have been pool and ping pong tournaments (of note, former Mariners ping pong champion Luis Torrens won the Yankees’ own competition this spring), NCAA bracket pools, and position group challenges. This year, something new.

The Mariners are now hooping it up early in the morning with a 3-point competition that includes players and staff.

The inspiration? The recent NBA All-Star weekend. The execution?

“Kudos to our advance scout Sam Reinertsen, who has absolutely nothing to do right now,” Servais said. “So we put that on his plate and he’s done an awesome job. He’s tightened up the hoop a bit, got us a bunch of balls, he has got an unbelievable trophy.”

Not for nothing, but the setup is feet away from where Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk will be broadcasting this Monday through Friday, so that could make for some interesting radio.

On the player side, Dom Canzone drew the praise of general manager Justin Hollander for sinking 13 treys on Day 1. On the coaching side, bullpen and catching coach Tony Arnerich, a standout Bay Area athlete in his high school days, appears to have the early inside track. J.P. Crawford and Cole Young appeared to have good shots and Logan Gilbert, well, he’s had a ton of practice as he has been seen shooting hoops nearly every day this spring. We will see where it goes.

“It keeps it loose,” said Servais, who added there is a Seattle connection to the idea. “You know (shooting hoops) was a Pete Carroll thing and we know what Pete meant to Seattle. It was always shoot the hoop, so do it in honor of Pete Carroll.”

Mariners news and notes

• Now two games into Cactus League play, Julio Rodríguez has yet to appear, which is a bit of a surprise. According to Servais, though, there is not much too it.

“Julio has done a lot of training, a lot of reps in the offseason,” he said. “He will be out there soon. We have got time with these guys, especially with Julio, who’s going to take a really heavy workload once we get going so we want everyone feeling 100%, ready to go. You will probably see him in the next day or two.”

• The Mariners have officially announced the signings of third baseman/outfielder Brian Anderson and right-handed pitcher Trevor Kelly. The spring training roster is at 74, and yes, all lockers are full.

• Luis Castillo is scheduled to make his first start of the spring Monday, with George Kirby set to go Tuesday.

More Mariners coverage from Seattle Sports

Drayer: Young bats impress in Mariners’ spring training opener
How will Mariners handle the outfield this season?
Mariners’ rotation got work done in very different ways this offseason
Morosi breaks down three big Seattle Mariners concerns
Mariners’ Woo eager to take lessons learned as rookie into 2024
Drayer: Seattle Mariners’ Ty France back after drastic adjustments

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Mariners Notebook: Haniger’s big return, and which M’s can hoop?