Long relishing opportunity as September callup

September 20th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- 's long-term future likely doesn’t revolve around being a leadoff-hitting left fielder, but the Mariners rookie isn’t letting that slow him down as he takes advantage of his September opportunities.

Long batted leadoff just 68 times in 513 Minor League games since turning pro and started in the outfield just 12 times -- all earlier this season with Triple-A Tacoma -- but he’s adapted quickly to both roles while reinforcing the notion that he belongs somewhere in the Mariners’ rebuild going forward.

Long is primarily a second baseman, but with holding down that spot, Seattle shifted Long to left to get his bat in the lineup. That’s the same reason Mariners manager Scott Servais began a trial run last week with Long in the leadoff spot, wanting to just get more plate appearances for the youngster as the club looks at different prospects this final month.

Long responded by posting a .389/.421/.611 line in his first eight games leading off, going 14-for-36 with two doubles and two homers entering Friday’s three-game series opener against the Orioles.

“You set the tone for the game and see the most pitches,” he said. “I definitely like it.”

Just playing consistently right now is beneficial for the Mariners’ No. 15 prospect, who missed seven weeks at the end of the Minor League season with a broken bone in his right hand. He returned for just four games at Triple-A Tacoma before being added to Seattle’s roster as a September callup.

“It was just a matter of coming in every day and having a focus and taking things as serious as I can, just having a purpose with everything because I knew the time was short and I had to get things going,” he said.

The Mariners are thrilled to see the emergence of the youngster that they acquired from the Yankees in January for outfielder Josh Stowers, their second-round Draft pick in 2018. Stowers hit .273/.386/.400 with seven homers in 105 games for the Yankees’ Class A affiliate this season.

“Shed is playing great,” Servais said. “He’s swinging the bat as good as we’ve seen at any point really in the season, including the Minor League level. He’s made a few adjustments to his swing and is really staying inside the ball, getting the ball in the air and doing a lot of really good things.”

As for Long's leadoff role on a team with speedsters Gordon and Mallex Smith?

“It was an opportunity to get him a few more at-bats as much as anything,” Servais said. “But he has no issues there. He gives you a quality at-bat. He’s aggressive. The thing I like at the top of the lineup is he can hit a double, hit a homer, do a lot of different things to help you out.”

Haniger likely out for season

Servais still won’t officially rule outfielder out for the rest of the season, but that seems inevitable. The 2018 All-Star hasn’t played since June 6 due to a ruptured testicle and a subsequent lower back issue after he attempted a Minor League rehab stint in August.

“He still has a few issues going on,” Servais said. “Obviously we’re at the point in the season where it doesn’t look great for him getting back on the field. I don’t rule out anything, but it would be very difficult.”