Lewis (knee) shut down for the rest of '21

September 8th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Despite diligent efforts, exhaustive rehab and tireless determination, Kyle Lewis’ 2021 season will not continue, Mariners manager Scott Servais said Tuesday.

Seattle’s center fielder recently suffered a bone bruise in the right knee that he underwent surgery on in June, Servais said from Minute Maid Park, where Seattle continued its three-game series with the Astros.

Given the time crunch with just 24 games remaining and the labor it would take to ramp back up and then begin a rehab assignment, Lewis and the Mariners came to the decision that he won’t return for the regular season or playoffs if Seattle earns a postseason berth.

Servais estimated that Lewis experienced the issue when attempting sliding drills that led to a setback in his rehab last weekend.

“I suspect that's how it happened,” Servais said. “I don't know exactly. ... The last couple days before, he was getting ready to go out and the rehab really picked up the intensity of running the bases. The little sliding thing on the pad is nothing more than a formality you go through, what we do with all of our guys, and coming back the next day, he felt sore.

“So, having some other people look at it and seeing where it was at right now, that's what was determined. And we needed to let it quiet down. And, again, if this was the situation in June, it'd be different. We're not in June. We're headed towards the middle of September here, so the calendar has gotten us a little bit on this one.”

The loss stings for Seattle, which was eager to return its top run producer from 2020, but more so for Lewis, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, who has already experienced a season-ending injury on the same knee in ’16, just after he was drafted as the No. 11 overall pick, and an exhaustive recovery process to get back to full strength back then.

He also missed the first 17 games of 2021 after suffering a bone bruise in the knee near the end of Spring Training, a separate issue from the torn meniscus he experienced on May 31. In between, he hit .246/.333/.392 (.726 OPS) with five homers and 107 wRC+ (league average is 100) in 36 games. But Lewis really hit his stride in the weeks leading up to the eventual season-ending injury.

“He had such a great season last year, and I think we all understand what he can do for your lineup,” Servais said. “He’s a super talented player. Injuries happen. They are part of the game. And it is frustrating. These guys want to play, they want to be a part of it. I do commend him, he did everything he could to try to get back as soon as he could. But we were going through the right protocols, we want to make sure he was 100 percent.”

The 26-year-old will continue to work out at T-Mobile Park and remain with the club during home games. And he’ll now have nearly six full months to recover and rehab before Spring Training in 2022, when he’s expected to be a key contributor as the Mariners look to take another step forward with their young positional nucleus -- with Lewis being one of their most prominent pieces.

Sheff’s new role in bullpen

As the Mariners continue to work Justus Sheffield into his new bullpen role, they’re still sorting out how burdensome a workload they’ll give the lefty on any given day.

Sheffield has made three appearances in relief since being recalled on Sept. 1, and Tuesday marked his first outing going more than one inning. He threw 40 pitches over 2 1/3 frames, coming on essentially as a long reliever after Yusei Kikuchi failed to escape the second inning in an 11-2 loss.

“I've talked to Sheff after he's had the one-inning outings, and he told me both times he felt great and that he could pitch the next day,” Servais said. “Now, we didn't want to do that right out of the chute, obviously. But I do think if it's ... 14-15 pitches, his ability to come back, I think is going to be pretty good. Obviously, last night, he threw much more than that, and we'll certainly give him two or three days down before we put him back on the card, so to speak. But I think he's going have the ability to bounce back rather quickly.”

Torrens’ first action at third base

It had been long expected that Luis Torrens would work his way into a game at third, but the circumstances hadn’t presented themselves until Monday’s lopsided loss, when Torrens was installed in the eighth inning after the game was out of reach.

Torrens saw action on an infield grounder by Jose Altuve, throwing out the former AL MVP on a strike into the chest of first baseman Ty France.

“He can play deep,” Servais said. “He's got a really good arm. And the one thing about Luis is he's got a ton of confidence, no matter where you ask, he can play. He said, ‘Yes, and I'm better than the guy we got out there.’ I said, 'OK, Luis, I hear you, but let's keep things in perspective here.’ So, he does not lack confidence at all.”

Torrens was originally signed as a shortstop by the Yankees and has been working out at third regularly since the All-Star break. Though he likely won’t see consistent playing time there, the Mariners have tried to create as much positional versatility with their infielders as possible.