Haniger, Diaz honored for breakout seasons

September 29th, 2018

SEATTLE -- Breakout seasons by Mitch Haniger and were recognized Friday, as the two Mariners All-Stars were selected for top honors from the Seattle chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Haniger was named this year's Mariners Player of the Year, while Diaz was honored as the Pitcher of the Year. Dee Gordon won the Unsung Hero award for his role as a team leader and positive role with the community and media.
The annual awards are voted on by the 27 members of the local BBWAA and were presented prior to Friday night's game against the Rangers by chapter chairman Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.
Haniger and Diaz both earned their first American League All-Star selections in July and neither slowed down. Haniger has posted an outstanding .283/.364/.492 slash line with 26 home runs and 91 RBIs going into Friday's game. He also is tied for the Major League lead with 12 outfield assists.
Manager Scott Servais said Haniger's consistency -- both in terms of his production and approach -- has helped take his game to another level.
"It's awesome," Servais said. "Very valuable. Knowing what you're going to get every day when you come to the ballpark, from a manager's standpoint, that's all you want. Not how many hits or strikeouts, but what kind of effort they're going to bring. Are they going to be prepared? You can check all the boxes with Mitch Haniger. You never have to worry about it."
Diaz leads the Majors with his club-record 56 saves, the third-most in MLB history and just six shy of the all-time single-season record. The 24-year-old right-hander has posted a 1.99 ERA while racking up 121 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings and already broke an MLB record with his 27 one-run saves.
With former Rays closer Alex Colome providing a perfect combination as Seattle's eighth-inning man after being acquired in late May, Diaz dominated the ninth inning from the season's start to finish.
"We'll look back on this season some day and realize how good it was," Servais said. "It was really special, all the one-run saves and him coming through so many times when we really needed to lock it down. It just became second nature where in a one-run game, we'll win it. It was Colome-Diaz and let's go home. It was really good. Just a phenomenal season."
Gordon proved uniquely versatile and willing to take on new challenges when the former Gold Glove second baseman was shifted to center field after being acquired from the Marlins last winter. The slender speedster was a huge catalyst offensively in the first half, though his production dipped after fracturing a toe two months into the season.
Gordon shifted back to second base when drew his 80-game suspension, then finished the season splitting time between second, shortstop and center field. Servais appreciated the 30-year-old's willingness to take on all challenges as well as inject his personality and team-first intangibles into the club.
"That's very key," Servais said. "When Dee is out there leading the charge, it's contagious, a positive energy. We certainly saw it for a long time. We rode the wave with him for a long time."
Worth noting
• Left-handed long reliever will start Sunday's 12:10 p.m. PT season finale against the Rangers in what will be his fourth spot start of the year.
"He's done a good job for us," Servais said. "We've used him in a lot of different roles. He can go out there and throw you 75 pitches and then be good to go out of the bullpen two days later. Not too many guys can do that."
• Gordon was not in the lineup Friday for the third straight night as he's dealing with a sore right foot from a foul ball, Servais said. Gordon has been slowed by a fractured right big toe for the last three months, and Servais said he'll "wait and see" if the speedster can play on Saturday or Sunday.
• Ashley Schutt, the director of baseball operations and merchandise with Triple-A Tacoma, has been selected as the 16-team Pacific Coast League's sole nominee for the 2018 Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year Award.
Schutt, a Tacoma native who has been with the Rainiers since graduating from the University of Oregon in 2008, is a finalist for the national award from all 16 Minor League circuits that will be announced Dec. 10 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.