TORONTO -- If it seems like Mitch Haniger is hitting the ball harder and higher in the first five weeks of the season, it's because it's true. The Mariners right fielder has seen one of the largest jumps in the Majors this season in Statcast™'s exit velocity and launch angle readings.
Haniger has an average exit velocity of 95 mph or more on 52.9 percent of his batted balls, a huge jump from 35 percent last season. Haniger's average exit velocity is the 15th-highest in the Majors.
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Haniger isn't built like a big bopper. But he went into Tuesday's series opener against the Blue Jays ranked sixth in the Majors in slugging percentage and tied for sixth in home runs. And that's no accident.
"I try to be a gap-to-gap guy. I should hit a lot of doubles," Haniger said. "In batting practice I've never been a big home run guy. I'm still not. But instead of hitting low line drives this offseason, I tried to elevate a little bit more.
"I'm still where I'm trying to hit a line drive -- I'm not talking about fly balls. But just groove my swing to where when I get my 'A' swing off, it's in the air. In the past it'd be a low line drive. Now it's a little more elevation, which according to the numbers, if you can hit the ball hard in the air, it's more beneficial."
Indeed, Statcast™ shows Haniger's average launch angle is up from 10.6 degrees to 18.8. The MLB average this year is 11.7 degrees. That gain of 8.2 degrees is the fifth-largest jump among 161 players with at least 75 batted balls in both of the last two years.
During his rookie season in 2017, Haniger posted a .282/.352/.491 slash line with 15 home runs in 369 at-bats. He went into Tuesday's series opener against the Blue Jays with a .297/.380/.627 line with 10 homers in 118 at-bats.
Altavilla to pitch Thursday in Arkansas
Reliever Dan Altavilla, sidelined the past week with inflammation in his right shoulder, has reported to Double-A Arkansas and was slated to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday. He'll make his first one-inning rehab appearance for the Travelers on Thursday against Springfield.
The hard-throwing 25-year-old said the shoulder began feeling some discomfort a couple weeks ago and he finally had it looked at after it affected his command in his last two outings for the Mariners. But after sitting out a week, Altavilla said he's back to feeling 100 percent.
The tentative plan is for Altavilla to throw two rehab games for Arkansas, with a day off in between, which means he potentially could be ready to come off the 10-day disabled list by the end of the current road trip on Sunday in Detroit or Monday in Minneapolis if all goes well.
Rest days being built in
Shortstop Jean Segura was back in the lineup Tuesday after being pulled from Sunday's 8-2 loss to the Angels in the eighth inning due to a migraine headache. Segura hasn't missed a start yet this season, but manager Scott Servais said that will change soon as he plans to get some rest for most of his veterans at some point on this road trip.
Segura and third baseman Kyle Seager have started every game at their position so far this season and second baseman Robinson Cano has been in the lineup for the first 34 contests as well, though one of those was at designated hitter.
"I will try to give Jean, Seager and Cano a day off during this trip," Servais said. "We're looking at matchups and what might be the best day to give them a break. So you probably won't see our entire lineup out there every day on this trip."
The Mariners have their full position group healthy after some early-season issues and they'd like to keep them crisp.
"I don't know if the tank is ever completely full after the first couple weeks of the season," Servais said. "You get a few nicks and bruises and a little sore here and there and you have to play through some of that stuff. But we're trying to give these guys a day. I think it's as much mental as physical, keeping them fresh going forward.
"They'll all argue with me that they don't need a day off and they'll all want to play 162 games, but we know that's not realistic. Instead of waiting for an injury to happen or having a guy sitting on an 0-for-10 [slump] and not seeing the ball good and chasing everything because he's tired, let's try to be more proactive."