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Lewis bigger, stronger, faster after shutdown

@gregjohnsmlb
July 5, 2020

SEATTLE -- His young career has already had enough stops and starts to last a lifetime, so Kyle Lewis isn’t about to let another 3 1/2 months of a COVID-19 shutdown slow him down. Among the players who’ve impressed Mariners manager Scott Servais with how they’ve looked coming back to

SEATTLE -- His young career has already had enough stops and starts to last a lifetime, so Kyle Lewis isn’t about to let another 3 1/2 months of a COVID-19 shutdown slow him down.

Among the players who’ve impressed Mariners manager Scott Servais with how they’ve looked coming back to camp this weekend, the 24-year-old outfielder is at the top of the list. And that’s a good initial sign for a Seattle club looking to keep its youthful rebuilding project on track in this abbreviated season.

Lewis, the Mariners’ first-round MLB Draft pick in 2016, made his presence felt last fall when he hit a Major League record six home runs in his first eight games as a September callup and showed he was ready for a shot at a starting corner outfield position.

You’d expect a guy carrying that sort of momentum would be crushed by having his first shot at a full-time MLB opportunity delayed, particularly after he got off to a strong Spring Training in Arizona as well. But for Lewis, patience is more than a virtue. It’s become a way of life after he worked through three Minor League seasons dealing with major knee surgery and several recurring follow-up issues.

How to watch Mariners Summer Camp workouts

So, when baseball shut down in mid-March, at least this time Lewis didn’t have to spend the ensuing months in recovery and rehab. Instead, he got together with private hitting, speed and strength coaches at his offseason home in Atlanta and worked on getting bigger, stronger and faster.

“It was definitely an interesting experience for me,” Lewis said of his latest career delay. “It’s something I would credit to having a lot of interesting experiences up to now. I just take it in stride and take it for what it is and try to show up when your number is called, whenever that may be. I’ve always tried to take that mindset and it’s kind of second nature now.”

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Lewis physically looks the part of a big league ballplayer. And Servais said that Lewis appears to be moving much better in the outfield even since the earlier Spring Training.

“Coming back from a very serious knee injury, it takes time,” Servais said. “You might be physically strong and everything checks out, but it’s always in the back of your head. That’s what it looks like to me, that it’s kind of freed him up now.

“The fact that he’s worked so hard, he has 100% confidence in how his body is working and moving and how it’s going to bounce back after a couple rough days on the field, it’s great to see. He looks really good and he’s been one guy that has stood out. You can see the work he put in is really going to pay off.”

Lewis and fellow rookies Evan White, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn and others would have had 90 games under their belt by now this year and be one week shy of the All-Star break. Instead, they’re just working back into baseball shape and hoping to get in a truncated 60-game campaign.

“It’s not frustrating,” Lewis insisted, “because I still feel I’m at that same point and same level. I’m just biding my time for whenever that opportunity comes.”

Between Double-A Arkansas and Seattle last season, Lewis played 140 games, his first full season since a home-plate collision blew up his knee in the 30th game of his pro career at Class A Short Season Everett in 2016. So whatever happens in the remainder of '20, he’ll take it as a good jumping off point in a career just getting started.

“We saw the impact he can have, the power he has when he’s squaring balls up,” Servais said. “Teams will pay a little more attention to him than maybe when he first showed up. They’ve got video and a little track record and a look at how they’ll attack him a little differently.

“But the thing about Kyle, he has power to all fields. He can take the ball out to right field just as well as to left. He’s focused on trying to minimize the holes in his swing and the areas of the strike zone maybe he doesn’t handle as well as others. But that’s the beauty of being in the big leagues. It’s constant adjustments.”

What could Lewis accomplish, given a full 162-game slate?

“The ceiling, the upside for Kyle, the sky is the limit,” Servais said. “It really is. I don’t like to put numbers or too high of expectations on anybody, but he could really take this thing as far as he wants. He’s got that kind of ability.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.