Torrid all spring, Mariners’ Mitch Haniger adds an exclamation point

Mar 24, 2024, 3:26 PM

Seattle Mariners Mitch Haniger...

Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger during a game on Sept. 27, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Back with the Seattle Mariners after a year away, Mitch Haniger has been turning the hands of time back all spring training.

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So on the final day in Arizona for the M’s before packing up for the road, it’s only fitting that the former All-Star put one last exclamation point on his torrid run through Cactus League play.

Hitting sixth in the lineup and playing right field Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, the 33-year-old Haniger opened the day with his third double of the spring, this one coming against veteran Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks.

Haniger was just getting started, though.

In his second trip to the plate, Haniger jumped all over something slow and hanging from Hendricks for a no-doubt homer to left-center at Peoria Stadium.

The video is certainly worth a watch, because M’s star Julio Rodríguez happened to be on the mic with the ROOT Sports announce team at the time, and his reaction was certainly entertaining.

In fact, Rodríguez was talking about Haniger right up until the swing, and he never missed a beat.

“What he’s doing for us right now” – cue the crack of Haniger’s bat – “look at that. Look at that. That’s gone. That is gone – I’m not leaving the mic now,” Rodríguez exclaimed.

Big spring for Seattle Mariners’ Haniger

Sunday’s homer was Haniger’s fifth of the spring, which not only leads the Mariners but is tied for fifth in all of baseball. Making that all the more impressive is the fact that Haniger’s 36 plate appearances at the time of the homer were at least five less than any of the 14 other players with as many or more homers than him this spring.

Following a walk and a groundout in Haniger’s next two PAs, his line for the spring sits at a .429 average, .487 on-base percentage and .943 slugging percentage for a 1.430 OPS.

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Now, we all know spring training stats aren’t the best predictor of future success, but it at least seems clear that Haniger is in a great spot going into the season. Health has always been a key storyline in his career – he’s played at least 100 games in a season only twice since debuting in MLB in 2016, and he was limited to just 61 games with the San Francisco Giants in 2023.

When Haniger has been able to stay on the field, though, he’s produced. When he appeared in 157 games for the Mariners in 2018, he made the American League All-Star team and set career-highs with a slash line of .285/.366/.493, an .859 OPS and 38 doubles. And when he played in 157 games again in 2021, he set two more career-high marks: 39 home runs and 100 RBIs.

Haniger has been candid since returning to Seattle in a January trade that he had been hoping to put on an M’s uniform again before his playing days are over. If his spring is any indication, the return may be right on time for both the player and the team.

More: Haniger feels more comfortable back with Seattle Mariners

The M’s are set to go to San Diego’s Petco Park for two last spring games against the Padres on Monday and Tuesday, then will start the MLB regular season at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at home against the Boston Red Sox. Radio coverage of each of those games, and every game this M’s season, can be found on Seattle Sports 710 AM and streaming on the Seattle Sports app.

More Seattle Mariners coverage

Drayer: A look around the diamond as Seattle Mariners near opening day
GM Hollander details which Mariners have stood out this spring
AL West Preview: How do Mariners stack up vs Rangers, Astros?
What could unlock Mariners’ Dominic Canzone for a breakout
Drayer: How Servais’ Seattle Mariners view start of season differently

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Torrid all spring, Mariners’ Mitch Haniger adds an exclamation point