The Mariners kept providing assurances and hope that Kyle Lewis was going to bounce back.
It’s about all they could do after injuries had sidelined their 2016 first-rounder from Mercer for the majority of the 24-year-old’s first three professional seasons.
Now their former No. 1 prospect is entering 2020 with the left field starting job in Seattle his to lose, thanks to a scintillating September. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound outfielder bashed home runs in five of his first eight big league games and six of his first 10. He hit .268/.293/.592 in 18 games.
Mariners manager Scott Servais was asked what he learned most from after Lewis was called up from Double-A Arkansas.
“He knows he belongs,” Servais said. “That’s half the battle in this league. ‘I belong in this league and I can play.’ That’s step one.
“The flip side is he knows he has things to work on. ‘I’ve got to slow the game down, not try too hard to hit the long ball every time.’ Sometimes (pitchers) don’t let you. You just put your bat down and you walk to first base and trust the guy behind you. He’ll learn.”
Lewis hasn’t played at the Triple-A level, but barring a disastrous spring he will begin 2020 in the big leagues. Starting outfielder Mitch Haniger is recovering from core surgery and unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, paving the way for Lewis.
Lewis’ debut dovetailed nicely with the organization’s push to focus on prospect development in pursuit of playoff contention in 2021. Now, the proverbial torch seems to have been passed to Lewis and his prospect cohorts to lead the team to the postseason for the first time since 2001.
He simply shrugged that notion off.
“I don’t think you can put a torch on somebody after a week of games,” he said. “It’s hard to live in that back-and-forth when this is such a roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs and you’ve got to live with it and be who you are.”
— Other prospects who received invites included pitchers Jack Anderson, Sam Delaplane, Aaron Fletcher, Joey Gerber, Darren McCaughan, Ian McKinney, Wyatt Mills, Anthony Misiewicz, Penn Murfee and Ljay Newsome; catcher Cal Raleigh; infielders Jordan Cowan and Connor Hoover and outfielder Luis Liberato.