Haniger hits 1st of back-to-back-to-back HRs

Long still on mend; Gonzales will pitch in either sim game or 'B' game

March 5th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- showed more signs that the sweet swing that made him an All-Star in 2018 is returning to form in Thursday’s 9-9 tie against the Rockies at Peoria Stadium.

Haniger crushed a three-run homer off left-hander Phillip Diehl that easily cleared the left-field wall in the third inning, leaving the bat with an exit velocity of 110 mph, according to Trackman data. It was the first home run for Haniger since he took Astros lefty Wade Miley deep on June 4, 2019.

and , the following two batters, both went deep to give the Mariners back-to-back-to-back home runs.

All offseason, the Mariners said that Haniger was fully healthy, but they also acknowledged that his status couldn't be adequately assessed until he played in games. The club still plans to limit his workload to games every other day, and he played in only four innings Thursday.

But Haniger's homer -- a big one, to boot -- showed that the Mariners could be getting back the player he was before multiple injuries and surgeries sidelined him for nearly two years. In 2018, Haniger hit 26 homers in 157 games. He then hit 15 home runs in 63 games in '19.

“He’s got his strength back,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He looks good physically in the box. All the training he’s done to get back in shape and get on the field, I think he has a really good understanding of where his body is at and understanding how his swing is working. I think his swing right now looks shorter than it ever has. … He feels really good about it. It’s great to see him get some results, because he’s put a ton of work in to get back out there.”

Long still on the mend
Shed Long Jr.
is still not 100 percent recovered from the season-ending stress fracture to his right shin that he sustained last September, but the Seattle second baseman believes he’s getting close. Long has been held out of Cactus League games, but he has been taking batting practice and working out. However, he has been limited with some of his work at second base.

“There's a lot of movement. There's a lot of directional changes, things like that,” Servais said. “And you're also looking at the explosiveness of the first-step movements from him. So those are the things that he's working on.”

Long had a positive rehab process, but the adjustments to the everyday work of Spring Training have been more demanding. Beyond his health, Long is looking to bounce back from a season in which he slashed .171/.242/.291 in 34 games. He came into camp on the outside looking in for the starting second-base job, which he held last year.

“When you get into camp, you're standing out there for three, 3 1/2 hours in a workout and then expected to go back out there and play for another couple hours in a game," Servais said. "So the volume is what we really want to take a look at here.”

Backup catcher Luis Torrens’ right middle finger is still healing from a minor cut he sustained in a weight-room incident at the onset of camp. Because the area is still sore, Torrens has been sidelined from swinging a bat, but he should be back in the box this weekend, Servais said.

Beyond Long and Torrens, the Mariners have had a clean bill of health so far.

Mariners mapping out 'B' games
Marco Gonzales’ next turn through the rotation comes Sunday, but he won’t make the outing in Seattle’s Cactus League game against the Angels, with Logan Gilbert already slated to start. Instead, Gonzales will pitch in Peoria, either in a simulated game or -- if the Mariners finalize logistics -- a "B" game against one of the other area teams, such as the Padres, Rangers or Royals.

The Mariners have mapped out their pitching to play nine-inning games through Spring Training -- they have 42 arms in camp -- but that isn’t the case for every club, which is why some of their games have been shorter. It’s also a factor in ensuring that opposing teams in "B" games will be able to man a full staff.

“It's hard, because every team is looking at their pitching and, ‘Do we have enough to actually warrant getting together with another organization to play a four- or five-inning game?’” Servais said. “Certainly, the Padres are right next door. We’ll stay in communication with them, but if not, if they don't have the pitching and it doesn't line up, we'll just create our own simulated game the best we can to make sure that Marco gets his innings in.”

Montero nearing debut
New reliever Rafael Montero will throw his first batting practice on Friday, then could appear in a Cactus League game early next week. The right-hander arrived late to camp due to a visa issue.

Up next
Chris Flexen will make his Mariners debut when he starts against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., on Friday at 12:05 p.m. PT. Flexen, who signed with Seattle in December, spent last season pitching in the Korea Baseball Organization. The Mariners have touted Flexen’s much-improved variety of pitches that he has polished since going 3-11 with an 8.07 ERA in 27 games (11 starts) from 2017-19. Right-hander Jonathan Stiever will start for the White Sox.