Mariners Mailbag: What’s the real team? Babying Kyle Lewis? After Haniger returns?

Like sunny days in Seattle, apparently the Twitter mailbag Waits until July to appear. And with the Mariners on an impressive swing from “fire everyone” to “I always knew they’d come back” and rampant speculation about roster logjams and who the Mariners should acquire at the trade deadline, this seems like the perfect time for the mailbag’s triumphant return.

As always these are real questions submitted to the non-bandwagon fans that are my Twitter followers.

Given what it takes each night, winning eight games in a row can be considered somewhat of an aberration for any team, even the Yankees and Astros. Usually when streaks happen, they aren’t simply about the team that’s winning but often the circumstances of the other teams they are playing.

While it’s fun to play the schedule game (a favorite of some sportstalk radio hosts), it’s often about the timing of when you play teams and what’s going on with them. Toronto hardly looked like a playoff team in the game’s leading up to the four-game series with Seattle.

Does the Mariners win streak reach eight games if Kevin Gausman pitches in the Blue Jays series? Does it even get started if A’s ace Frankie Montas doesn’t leave after one Inning of work due to shoulder issues?

After the abysmal 3-8 homestand where everyone thought Scott Servais (or at least someone) was getting fired, the Mariners are 19-3. Do I think they are that good? Of course not. Do I also think they were as bad as they played during that homestand or in the 9-21 stretch from April 27-May 25? Quick.

They are somewhere in between those extremes. The recent success of the starting rotation will be tough to sustain on a daily basis for the rest of the season. There will be a stretch where one or two starters struggle. The Mariners have not had a starting pitcher miss a start this season due to injury, which is atypical in baseball. They have yet to put out a lineup that features a healthy Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis at the same time or even offer an extended stretch showcasing what the offense could actually provide.

I never tell fans how to be fans. But the Mariners came into Monday holding one of the three American League wild-card spots (they own the tiebreaker over the Blue Jays) and were only one game back of the second wild-card spot and 2.5 games back of the first wild-card spot.

Even if you are skeptical and afraid to believe better days are ahead, it is respectable that they’ve played their way back into something more than consideration.

Well this isn’t quite as bad as when fans were calling Lewis soft for missing so much time due to a concussion, saying that because the pitch had glanced off his shoulder it shouldn’t have caused a severe concussion even if it hit the soft area behind his ear where there is minimal skull protection.

There is no such thing as a minor concussion. Either you are concussed or not. And every person reacts differently to concussions. I’ve had five. Lewis was bothered by sunshine and bright lights, had blurred vision, headaches, nausea and fatigue. They recently talked about being stuck in bed for hours per day as they tried to get the symptoms to subside.

But as for the Mariners babying him and not letting him come back, you’d be 100 percent incorrect on this situation.

You don’t think Servais wanted to have Lewis back when they were dealing with suspensions?

While the Mariners won’t openly admit it or criticize him, it is Lewis who is controlling the situation with his rehab stint and his return to the MLB roster. He’s always had final say on determining his readiness in returning, dating back to his previous knee issues early in his career.

Back June 30, Servais was asked about when Lewis and Mitch Haniger might return from their respective injuries. His response:

“You’re kind of at the point with the players working out here pregame, it’s up to them as much as anything on where they’re at and when they want to go out [on a rehab assignment] and play to get ready to get back here and help us. I don’t have an exact date. You’ll have to talk to them.”

It wasn’t the first time Servais said something of that nature.

In a trend with more players around MLB, they are taking control of their recovery and rehab. It’s not to say they are completely ignoring the Mariners’ training staff. But they want to have a say in it with their own Doctors and Trainers whom they trust working with the team staff.

It’s why Servais and Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto have had somewhat vague or generalized comments about the status of those two players’ injuries.

Players should absolutely have the right to control their health and decision-making in their injury recovery and return. They have a better understanding that rushing back or not getting enough reps in a rehab stint usually results in poor performance and a greater risk of recurring injuries.

The only thing that the Mariners have said since Lewis has started this current rehab assignment that might Prolong it is that they want him to be able to come back and play some outfield and not strictly be a designated hitter. Given the current roster setup, they don’t have the luxury of a DH-only player. Lewis is expected to play outfield with Class AAA Tacoma this week and should be ready to go after the All-Star break.

Also, a “locked-in swing” in the minor leagues doesn’t mean that it hits major-league pitching.

My initial answer is something that infuriates people, but there is a fair amount of truth in it: “Baseball has a way of figuring these things out.”

Huh?

What it means is that by the time both Haniger and Lewis are back on the roster together, the situation might not seem complicated due to injury or poor performance.

So, Let’s say that Lewis comes back after the break and Haniger is ready to go July 28 when the Mariners open a huge road trip, which starts with four games in Houston and three in Yankee Stadium and includes the Aug. 2 trade deadline.

By then, there might not be a roster crunch. But Upton was always expendable and has done nothing to change that belief. For most fans, Winker’s biggest contribution has been starting a Brawl and then eating and tweeting about a pizza he received for doing it. Kelenic’s numbers are great in Tacoma, but there’s a reason he hasn’t been called up yet. The Mariners want some changes to his approach with two strikes and recognizing and hitting breaking pitches to show more consistency.

To me, if the Mariners are still in this position in the wild-card standings when Haniger and Lewis are both healthy and on the roster, then every player’s personal feelings about their role, their playing time or being sent down shouldn’t mean a damn thing to Servais or Dipoto.

This organization hasn’t been in the Playoffs in 21 years. The only focus over the final few months is putting the players on the field who give them the best chance to get there, hurt feelings be damned. It’s no longer about development. It’s not about building for the future. It’s not even about having an extended window of success. Seize the moment, end the drought and start changing the perception of the franchise. It’s what fans deserve.

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