Lewis rejoins BP, promptly demolishes HRs

August 14th, 2021

SEATTLE -- Kyle Lewis was all smiles ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Blue Jays, and he had good reason.

The reigning American League Rookie of the Year took pregame batting practice on the field with his teammates for the first time since suffering a right meniscus tear on May 31 that he underwent surgery for two weeks later.

Lewis took three rounds of BP and hit booming homers deep to left field in each of his final two sessions, showing further signs that he could be nearing a return before the end of the regular season, as the Mariners have ambitiously hoped all along but have stopped short of assuring.

However, Lewis did not participate in fielding drills and did not run, which will be far more significant steps before beginning a rehab assignment. Lewis has continued to work out, perform plyometric exercises and report to T-Mobile Park just about every day, particularly when the Mariners are on the road.

But given the severity of the injury and the sensitivity of his history with the knee, the club will make sure that he’s more than 100% recovered before sending him back out. As such, it has been tempered about putting a timeline on the center fielder’s return, and Lewis preferred not to discuss his recovery Friday.

If/when Lewis does return in 2021, the Mariners will almost certainly ease him back by building in days for him to DH, and there’s a chance he could move to corner-outfield spots on others. Jarred Kelenic has been the club’s primary center fielder since returning from Triple-A Tacoma out of the All-Star break, and Taylor Trammell, who’s now at Tacoma, played there when Lewis began the season on the IL with a bone bruise in the same knee. Jake Fraley has also played center in 15 games this season.

But there’s no denying that Seattle could sorely benefit from having a healthy Lewis before season’s end, especially as it sits 4 1/2 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot entering play Friday. Lewis hit .246/.333/.392 with five homers and a 108 wRC+ (league average is 100) over 36 games before hitting the IL, and he was the club’s top run producer in the shortened 2020 season. The lefty-heavy Mariners could also use his presence in the right side of the box.

Blue Jays fly south without big crowd

During an annual series in which it has become difficult to gauge which team is the home club given Seattle’s proximity to Canada, the Mariners should have the crowd more in their favor this weekend. Through the years, many Canadian fans from the Vancouver area and close by have flocked just a few hours south and made just about every game a near sellout.

But due to border restrictions related to the pandemic, there weren’t nearly as many Canadians at T-Mobile Park on Friday. The last time the Blue Jays were here, in 2019, those games accounted for the two most attended (other than Seattle’s home opener and the second game of the season, both against Boston).

“It'll be different, there's no question about it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Any time we play the Blue Jays, you're expecting -- at least every time I've played against them when I've been here as a manager -- a full house in a very loud, raucous crowd, which brings a lot of electricity in the ballpark. ... When they start singing the national anthem, you have a pretty good idea what you're in store for.”