SEATTLE -- If Braden Bishop hadn’t gotten plunked in the ribs by a 96-mph fastball, had he not had to deal with internal bleeding from a lacerated spleen and being taken out of his third Major League start not knowing exactly what was happening inside his body, these past 10 weeks would have likely been his window of opportunity to show the Mariners what he’s got.
But the rookie center fielder doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about that. Instead, he’s focused on what it takes to get back on the field after finally healing up for a push toward one final month of action.
The 25-year-old speedster will head out Tuesday on a Minor League rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Modesto, looking to build himself back up for another return to the Mariners, most likely as a September callup when rosters can be expanded.
He endured a similar fate last year when a fastball broke bones in his right forearm on July 19 at Double-A Arkansas, which led to season-ending surgery that short-circuited what had been a breakthrough season in the Minors.
Yet, there’s no lamenting from Bishop, who has impressed the organization and teammates for several years with his commitment and drive to his 4MOM charity to raise funds for early-onset Alzheimer’s research, as well as his level-headed approach to improving his game and his chances at a big league career.
“Naturally as a human being, when the feelings get involved, you feel like you missed your opportunity and wonder why it happened,” he said. “I’ve been fighting myself every single day -- last year and this year -- like why can’t I get out of the way of the ball? But I think the overwhelming theme is that, even though I can’t play, it’s made me a better person, better teammate.
“Same thing with the forearm last year. It’s let me invest my time in other places that needed time. I think when I look back at this, I’ll realize in some aspect of my life I became more well-rounded. I think that’s bigger than baseball, although it’s obviously disappointing.”
Bishop was hit by a pitch the day before getting recalled to Seattle on June 2 after Jay Bruce was traded to the Phillies. He played an inning as a defensive replacement that day, then got the starting nod two days later against the Astros.
But after four innings, he realized the gnawing feeling in his gut wasn’t something he could keep playing through -- and tests the following morning revealed the lacerated spleen.
“It’s so tough, because your whole life, you’re taught I want to be in there, I want to be in there, until you physically can’t be in there,” he said. “Growing up playing football, you realize if I play sports, I’m never going to feel 100 percent. It’s just not going to happen. So you take how you feel that day and maximize it.
“I was feeling pretty bad, obviously. I just wanted to contribute so bad, especially in the situation I was in, where Jay had just got traded and here’s your opportunity. Going to school up here, I learned to love the city of Seattle and its fans, so many are Husky fans as well. I knew all these guys from the last two Spring Trainings and going to Japan. I just wanted to contribute so bad.”
That drive now pushes him to return. And the goal now is to prove to himself and the team that he’s physically ready for another opportunity before this season runs out. He said it took him a month to get back to feeling normal “as a person,” and another month to get back into baseball shape.
His goal for the rest of the year?
“I think more than anything, just mentally being able to get back on the field and know I’m going to be OK and be competitive again,” he said. “I’d like go to into the offseason knowing what I need to work on, and where I left the season. That would be huge.”
• Right fielder Mitch Haniger is also headed to Modesto with Bishop on Monday as the two will begin their rehabs together on Tuesday. Haniger, out since June 6 with a ruptured testicle, will likely head to Triple-A Tacoma when the Rainiers return home on Thursday. Haniger likely needs a week or more of rehab before being ready to be activated by the Mariners.
• Félix Hernández’s next rehab start will be with Class A Short Season Everett, which is home this coming week. Hernandez has made two Minor League starts as he works back from a right shoulder issue that has sidelined him since May 11. He threw 41 pitches over two-plus innings for Modesto on Thursday, and will need to lengthen his outing this week. He will then advance to Tacoma for a start before there’ll be any consideration of rejoining the Mariners.
• Since trading Mike Leake on July 31, the Mariners have been able to go with a four-man rotation due to a number of off-days on their schedule, but they will need a fifth starter next Saturday in Toronto. Manager Scott Servais said they could go with a bullpen day in that game, as the club currently has nine relievers, or could call up someone from the Minors if the bullpen is used a lot in the three-game Detroit series to open the trip.