When Jake Fraley stepped to the plate Sunday in the first inning to take over in the middle of the count for an injured Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais gave him a few words of advice.
“I told him, ‘Don’t do anything stupid. You’re not really loose,'” Servais said. “Let’s try to have a good at-bat and get loose as the game goes (on).”
Fraley struck out in that at-bat against Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, but hit a 420-foot blast his next time up to lead the visiting Mariners to a 6-2 victory as they avoided a sweep in the three-game series.
“He certainly got loose,” Servais said. “He had a nice two-run homer.”
The Mariners will open a nine-game homestand Monday night, beginning with three against the Minnesota Twins.
Fraley might be sad to see the trip end. He hit .290 with the first four home runs of his major-league career and 13 RBIs filling in for injured center fielder Kyle Lewis, last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, and top prospect Jarred Kelenic. The latter was sent back to Triple-A Tacoma last week after struggling in his first glimpse of the big leagues.
Fraley could see even more playing time if Haniger is out for an extended period. Haniger, who leads the Mariners in home runs (16) and on base plus slugging percentage (.828), fouled a ball off the inside of his left knee Sunday and crumpled to the ground. He walked gingerly off the field with the assistance of Servais and the team’s trainer.
“He smoked it,” Servais said. “I think more than anything, when that happens, and you hit it that hard right on your knee like that, you get scared. But he’s going to be OK. He’s going to be out maybe a day or two, I’m not sure. We’ll just take it day to day right now.”
The Mariners are scheduled to send left-hander Marco Gonzales (1-4, 5.45 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. The Opening Day starter recently returned from a stint on the disabled list with a strained left forearm. He’s 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in two career starts against Minnesota.
The Twins are set to counter with right-hander Kenta Maeda (2-2, 5.27), who will be activated from the 10-day IL to make his first appearance since May 22 following a rehab start with Triple-A St. Paul on Wednesday. Maeda, who will be facing Seattle for the first time, has been dealing with persistent groin tightness and arm weakness.
Maeda will take Randy Dobnak’s spot in the rotation.
“We had a lot of things to figure out, and we had to kind of mix and match and make it all work — make it work on the schedule, too — and line it all up,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of his rotation. “This is kind of the way that we think it works best right now, and it will take a little bit of adjusting. We have a few changes going on, but we think all for the better.”
The Twins were expected to compete for a playoff berth, but instead are tied with Detroit for last place in the AL Central, 15 games behind the Chicago White Sox.
They lost 14-3 at home Sunday against Houston.
–Field Level Media