Haniger expected to be back for '21 season

September 29th, 2020

SEATTLE -- missed all of the 2020 season recovering from surgery on a herniated disc in his back, but Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said Monday he expects the 2018 American League All-Star to be back in right field to start next year.

Haniger spent the past few months working out in Seattle, but wasn’t with the team as he wasn’t part of the allotted 60-man player pool given there was no chance he was going to be activated to the regular-season roster.

“I know his recovery has really picked up steam this last 30-40 days,” Dipoto said. “He is feeling as good as he’s felt through the course of this process. ... He will be teed up and released to play by New Year’s.

“Right now, my 100-percent belief is Mitch Haniger will be our right fielder on Opening Day. We’ll build a team intended for that to be the case and then adjust if not.”

Haniger hasn’t played a Major League game since June 6, 2019, when he ruptured a testicle with a foul ball. He’s since had three surgeries, including procedures to repair a torn adductor muscle and then the herniated disc in August of last year after attempting to return from his initial injury.

The Mariners used eight different players in right field this year, with late-season acquisition Phillip Ervin getting the most starts with 13. Dylan Moore and Mallex Smith each started 12 games there.

Other injury updates

• Second baseman Shed Long Jr., who went on the 10-day injured list with a stress fracture in his right shin on Sept. 11, is recovering now from Sept. 22 surgery that the club described as “a closed reduction intermedullary fixation of his right tibia.” Long hit just .171 in 34 games and had lost his starting role before going on the IL.

“We think he’ll be ready to play in the spring and we’ll see,” Dipoto said. “Shed didn’t have a great year, but obviously he was dealing with something that none of us were aware of. In some way, I hope it was affecting him more than he made us aware. … I hope he’s able to come back and do the things we’ve seen him do in the past, like September of 2019 or most of his Minor League career because we do think there’s something there with Shed.”

• Dipoto said there’s no timeline yet on catcher Tom Murphy’s recovery as he’s still healing from a small broken bone in his left foot that sidelined him for all of the past season and “continues to be a hassle for him.” Murphy is home in New York now, giving the bone time to finish recovering before he assumes offseason workouts.

• Outfielder Julio Rodriguez, the club’s No. 2 ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, has fully recovered from a fractured left wrist and will be one of the 40 Minor League players the Mariners are sending to an offseason camp in Peoria, Ariz., that will also play 20 instructional league games against other teams. Rodriguez also intends to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic if that league proceeds as expected.