CLEVELAND -- For all he’s been through the past two years, this is the last thing that Mitch Haniger needed.
Seattle’s right fielder fouled a four-seam fastball from Shane Bieber off the inside of his left knee during the first inning of Sunday’s 6-2 win against the Indians at Progressive Field. The Mariners later classified the injury as a left knee contusion.
Manager Scott Servais called it a bone bruise postgame after Haniger had undergone X-rays. It’s likely that the right fielder will undergo further testing, such as an MRI, when the club returns to Seattle late Sunday night. Servais wasn’t sure if the former All-Star will require an IL stint.
“He smoked it,” Servais said. “He hit it pretty good. I think more than anything, when that happens, and you hit it that hard right on your knee like that, you get scared. But he's going to be OK. He's going to be out maybe a day or two. I'm not sure. We’ll just take it day to day right now.”
Haniger immediately hit the ground in what appeared to be immense pain, laid there momentarily, then had to be helped off the field by Servais and assistant athletic trainer Taylor Bennett. Haniger wrapped his arms around each of their shoulders, unable to put any weight on the knee.
“I think we were all a little scared,” Servais said. “He feels much better about things right now after the initial look at the X-rays, but we'll just have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow.”
Watching from second base, J.P. Crawford immediately put both hands on his helmet, grasping the weight of the moment.
“I had a clear view of it. Right away, I just knew,” Crawford said. “Hopefully he gets back quickly as ever. But I mean, it didn’t look good. I feel bad for him. But we need him. So hopefully he gets back sooner than later.”
When Haniger finally returned to the field on Opening Day, it had been 662 days since his last regular-season action, a prolonged stretch due to a slew of surgeries and setbacks that began when he fouled a ball that ruptured his testicle on June 6, 2019, at T-Mobile Park. It was almost two years ago to the day on Sunday.
As he rehabbed that injury attempting a late-2019 comeback, Haniger suffered an adductor tear in his lower core area that required surgery. Then, the following January, he underwent back surgery when he and his doctors discovered a herniated disc. In total, he underwent three surgeries between that initial injury and Spring Training this year.
His early departure is also the last thing the Mariners needed. Beyond Haniger being their best player, they are already down center fielder Kyle Lewis, their cleanup hitter, who is expected to be out a prolonged period after undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus Wednesday. Starting first baseman Evan White is also sidelined. In total, the Mariners have 10 players on the injured list, even after reinstating everyday second baseman Dylan Moore on Saturday.
On his scheduled off-day, Jake Fraley took over for Haniger in right field, and he wound up going 1-for-5 with a towering, 420-foot homer off a Bieber breaking ball in the fourth inning. If Haniger is out an extended period, Fraley is likely ticketed for even more playing time than he’d already been seeing after Lewis’ injury and Jarred Kelenic was sent down on Monday. He’s 11-for-39 with four homers and 13 RBIs after missing 49 games with a left calf strain.
“I told him, ‘Don't do anything stupid. You're not really loose,’” Servais said. “Let's try to have a good at-bat and get loose as the game goes, and he certainly got loose. He had a nice two-run homer.”
Haniger leads the club in wins above replacement (1.5), slugging percentage (.518), OPS (.828), RBIs (40) and homers (16), the latter of which he is tied for fifth in all of MLB. He’s also played in 64 of Seattle’s 67 games, including Sunday.