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Haniger strains oblique, returns to Seattle

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

DETROIT -- Trouble came in a double dose on Tuesday for the Mariners as rookie right fielder Mitch Haniger, who has been one of the early-season surprises in the American League, was removed from a 19-9 series-opening loss to the Tigers after straining the oblique muscle in his right side on a third-inning single.

Haniger was removed shortly before Felix Hernandez wastaken out of the game as well, after feeling tightness in his pitching shoulder. Mariners manager Scott Servais said both will fly to Seattle to have tests done by team physician Ed Khalfayan.

DETROIT -- Trouble came in a double dose on Tuesday for the Mariners as rookie right fielder Mitch Haniger, who has been one of the early-season surprises in the American League, was removed from a 19-9 series-opening loss to the Tigers after straining the oblique muscle in his right side on a third-inning single.

Haniger was removed shortly before Felix Hernandez wastaken out of the game as well, after feeling tightness in his pitching shoulder. Mariners manager Scott Servais said both will fly to Seattle to have tests done by team physician Ed Khalfayan.

"It's just unfortunate," Haniger said. "I felt a grab in my side the first swing in that second at-bat. Then just running down the line it was tugging at me. I'll re-evaluate it tomorrow and see what the plan is."

Haniger had hits in his first two at-bats to hike his average to .338, and scored his American League-leading 20th run of the season after reaching on a bunt single in the first.

Haniger singled to center with one out in the third, but winced badly as he came out of the box and was immediately replaced by Danny Valencia.

"It's been tender the last couple days, but honestly, with how grueling this game is you're kind of always battling something," Haniger said. "It's disappointing. I took all the precautionary steps as far as making sure I was really loose, treating it and trying to make sure things didn't get worse, and unfortunately it did. Hopefully it's just a quick return and not too big of a setback."

Mild oblique strains can mean just a short recovery, but typically a strained oblique means missing a month or more for hitters, who put considerable strain on their torso with every swing.

Haniger, acquired from the D-backs in an offseason trade, leads the Mariners with 27 hits, seven doubles, and 20 runs in 21 games. His 16 RBIs are second only to Nelson Cruz, who had a three-RBI night Tuesday to bring his season total to 17, and Haniger has a 25-game on-base streak dating back to last season with Arizona.

Servais acknowledged that losing the club's best hitter to date is a tough blow just as the Mariners regained shortstop Jean Segura off the disabled list earlier in the day.

"No doubt. He's off to a great start and has been probably our most-consistent and hottest hitter," Servais said. "I feel bad for him. But nobody said this was going to be easy. It certainly makes things a little tougher when you start to lose key players."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Seattle Mariners, Mitch Haniger