NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Kyle Lewis was looking good, decked out in a black tux as he prepared to receive Baseball America's 2016 College Player of the Year award at the publication's annual gala at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
But more importantly, the 21-year-old Mariners prospect was feeling good and walking without any sign of a limp as the club's first-round Draft pick continues working back from knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial and lateral meniscus from a home-plate collision in a game for Class A Everett last July in his second month of pro ball.
Lewis, the No. 11 overall pick in last June's Draft and Seattle's top-rated prospect, per MLBPipeline.com, had been tearing up the Northwest League with a .299/.385/.530 line with three homers and 26 RBIs in his first 30 games before the injury.
The former Mercer University standout says he's recently begun running on the treadmill and hopes to progress to jogging outside in January as he rebuilds his strength.
"I'm doing great," Lewis said. "It's been exciting for me to see the progress I've been making every day. I just started [on the treadmill], so that's exciting for me. Once you get over that first hurdle, it's just working up to 100 percent and I feel I'm on the right path."
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said Lewis could be back on the field sometime in June or July if things continue to go well. Lewis has moved to Peoria, Ariz., so he can rehab and workout daily at the team's Spring Training facility.
"His work habits are off the charts," Dipoto said. "He's been very attentive to the program and sticking with it. That's a long process. I've been through a long rehab and it's tough. He's there every day, he grinds through it. I was very encouraged to see him running. We think he's a little ahead of schedule, but we're not going to rush him."
Lewis said he doesn't have any pain in the knee, but he's not making any predictions on his return.
"That's a couple months off," he said. "I don't know how to predict something like that, but I should be playing next season for sure."
Suffering such a serious knee injury so soon after he'd begun his pro career was devastating initially, but Lewis didn't let himself get bogged down in self pity.
"It was definitely a roller coaster at first," he said. "But a lot of credit to my family and just trying to stay humble about everything. I only gave myself one or two days to grieve and at that point it was like, we need to shift my focus on what I could do to get better and start that process.
"I've just been trying to learn everything about healing and recovery, just like I was doing with baseball before that. I'm trying to take the same principles and apply them to rehab vs. playing in a game."
And that is something the Georgia native has proven quite adept at already, as evidenced by the College Player of the Year presentation.
"This is awesome, just to be around baseball people and get back and be in this environment." Lewis said. "Plus it's just a huge honor anytime you get an award. I'm so appreciative of it."