Servais 'optimistic' Haniger could avoid IL

Mariners OF day to day after fouling ball off left knee; Cruz returns to Seattle

June 15th, 2021

Mitch Haniger and the Mariners received a big dose of relief on Monday, when Haniger's left knee responded more positively than it initially appeared it would after he needed to be helped off the field during Sunday's win at Cleveland.

Haniger was out of the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the Twins at T-Mobile Park, and though Mariners manager Scott Servais had tempered optimism on the right fielder’s immediate future, he is hopeful that Haniger will avoid the injured list.

“After seeing him today, I am optimistic that we don't have to put him on the 10-day IL,” Servais said. “But again, I don't want to put any timetable on it. We’ll just have to wait and see how the player feels and how he progresses here over the next day or two.”

Haniger will continue to receive treatment for the knee contusion he sustained after fouling a 93.3 mph fastball directly off the area, and it’s likely that he’ll miss more than just Monday's game. But given Haniger’s extensive injury history and how he looked Sunday, the progression seemed far more positive than anyone might have anticipated.

“Mitch is doing better than I thought he would be doing today,” Servais said. “He walked in, not much of a limp. But he is on the training table right now getting some treatment done. That left knee is pretty sore. He’s not going to do probably any baseball activity today.”

Jake Bauers took Haniger’s spot in right field on Monday, Shed Long Jr. played left and Jake Fraley was the designated hitter. The Mariners have some versatility to work with, and Haniger had already been starting roughly one game per series at DH to monitor his workload after he missed a year-and-a-half from 2019-20 due to three surgeries.

Nellie happy to be back in Seattle
Mariners fans will finally get a chance to see one of their favorite former Seattle players in person again, with Nelson Cruz in town -- and healthy -- playing for the Twins. The last time Minnesota visited Seattle, Cruz was on the 10-day IL with a left wrist injury.

“This one is more special,” Cruz said. “Last time I was here, I was injured, so it's the first time I’ll get to play in front of the Mariners fans in this stadium, so it's going to be fun and I’m going to try to enjoy it.”

Cruz, who was a three-time All-Star over his four seasons in Seattle, had lunch on Monday with Mariners chairman and managing general partner John Stanton to go over Cruz's and the club’s efforts for his Boomstick23 Foundation, which the 40-year-old launched in 2016.

Stanton and Cruz have a close relationship dating back to their visit to the latter’s homeland in the Dominican Republic in ’17, when Stanton helped Cruz deliver balls, bats, baseball gloves, hats and jerseys to hundreds of youngsters as part of his charitable efforts.

“The Mariners were a huge part of my foundation," Cruz said. “They support me all the way. We did a lot of good stuff through the Mariners and my foundation here in Seattle, in New York and also the Dominican with all different costs. So, a lot of good memories.”

This Mariners team is a much different one than the one that Cruz left after the 2018 season. Only Haniger, Marco Gonzales and Kyle Seager are the holdovers. Yet, he left a looming legacy.

“It doesn’t happen very often, especially nowadays,” Haniger said of Cruz’s ageless wonder. “The game is trying to go younger. They want to get younger guys. They’re always calling up young prospects, but there's nothing like an established MLB veteran and what that guy can bring to a clubhouse, what he can bring to the younger players, what he can bring to the organization, especially the fans, too.

"I want to see a guy hitting hundreds of home runs, I want to see guys established playing in front of my hometown team and Nelson checks all those boxes.”