Stiff back puts Haniger's rehab on hold

August 25th, 2019

SEATTLE -- The off-again, still off-again season of will remain on hold for the foreseeable future, as the Mariners right fielder said Saturday there’s no timeline for his return after having his stiff lower back checked out Friday by the team doctor.

Haniger has been sidelined for 11 weeks since rupturing a testicle when he fouled a ball off himself on June 6 in a game against the Astros. Since undergoing surgery the following day, he’s attempted several comebacks, only to be stifled by recurring issues with his groin and now his back.

His latest return saw him play two rehab games for Class A Advanced Modesto on Aug. 13-14, take five days off and then play another game at designated hitter for Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday before determining something still wasn’t right with his back.

So now it’s a return to the training room, more physical therapy and more waiting.

“We’re reevaluating it in a couple days and going from there,” Haniger said. “I feel like once that happens, once I get to a spot where I feel like I can do everything, then I’m going to have to start hitting and running and throwing and kind of jump through a lot of those hurdles before getting back into a game.

“So I’m not even thinking about anything, as far as how it goes ahead. Just try to get better today and do what they have for me in the training room and just try to get healthy.”

Haniger believes the back issue is related to his groin injury, or at least to the time he was shut down during the healing process.

“I think there were some things early on I was compensating for, as far as running or just walking around,” he said. “For a while, I couldn’t really walk normal and that unfortunately probably led to some back stuff going on. I just have to build back up, start out on the small stage and get my core going right and that should take care of a lot of stuff.”

With just five weeks remaining in the regular season, it’s reasonable to wonder at what point Haniger might just shut things down and begin working to be healthy for 2020. But he would like to return this season for one simple reason.

“Just because playing makes me happy,” he said. “Competing makes me happy. At the same time, I’ve kind of accepted that I don’t really have control over that. All I have control over is trying to get better every day. Today, doing what I can to set me up for tomorrow and then build off that each day.

“If that takes five days, great. If it takes two to three weeks, I have no idea. They haven’t given me a timeline because I don’t think there is a timeline right now. We’re just trying to get better every day and hopefully there’ll be a point where I’m good to go.”

Haniger was struggling offensively even before getting hurt. After his 2018 All-Star season, in which he posted a .285/.366/.493 line with 26 homers and 93 RBIs in 157 games, he hit .220/.314/.463 with 15 homers and 32 RBIs in 63 games this year.

The Mariners clearly aren’t competing for the postseason, but manager Scott Servais says getting Haniger healthy before September runs out definitely carries some benefit.

“We absolutely want him back,” Servais said. “For any player, it’s just peace of mind. It has been a crazy year for him with the injuries and stuff, but you want to go into the offseason knowing, ‘OK, I played the last month' or whatever.

"I’m not so much concerned with his performance or the numbers, just how he feels. Then you go into your offseason, train and go about your stuff to get ready for next year.”