The long awaited return of Kyle Lewis to the Seattle Mariners lineup is near. The 2020 American League Rookie of The Year began his rehab assignment Tuesday in style – with a first-swing home run – as he looks to help them reach the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
Lewis made his return to the diamond Tuesday night after missing a large majority of last season with a torn meniscus in his right knee. He only played in 36 games before the injury – the same knee he had surgery on earlier in his career.
It was Lewis’s first plate appearance in Triple-A, since he skipped straight to the Majors from Double-A. He gave the people of Tacoma, Washington something to cheer about.
He watched a ball and a strike go by before hitting a home run on his first swing. It was the first home run for Lewis since he took the Oakland A’s deep May 31st of last season – also the last time Lewis played a Major League game.
When his second at-bat came around Lewis continued his RBI party, driving in a run on an up-the-middle single to give Tacoma a 3-0 lead.
His third hit was a late-game rally starter for the Rainers, beginning a comeback to win the game. He took the first pitch of his 6th inning at-bat up the middle to center field to cut into the lead. Tacoma would go on to win the game 13-11. Lewis finished 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs and three runs batted in.
Winning or losing Tuesday’s slugfest ultimately takes a backseat to the positive outlook and performance Lewis had at the plate. Now it is not a question of if Lewis will return, but when.
Last season was a special one for Seattle. Although they missed the playoffs, they had their most wins (90) since 2002 and 2003. Both those years the team reached the 93 win plateau. Winning a majority of those games without Lewis – the team’s best offensive player in 2020 – was an impressive feat.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 11, 2020
Lewis was named the unanimous 2020 American League Rookie of The Year after posting a .264 batting average, .801 OPS, 11 home runs, five steals and 28 RBI during the COVID-shortened season.
He did get off to a slow start last season, only batting .161 during the month of April. It seemed he had just taken a turn for the better with a .273 average, three home runs and nine RBI May but his injury would come shortly after.
Lewis entered the league with one of the most accomplished college baseball resumes in the sport. He was named the Southern Conference Baseball Player of The Year as well as co-winner of the Gregg Olson Award for College Baseball’s best breakout player in his sophomore year.
His junior year, he was named an All-American by four major baseball writing associations, in addition to receiving the Golden Spikes award for the best college baseball player. He also won his second Southern Conference Player of The Year award and was voted American Baseball Coaches Division 1 National Player of the Year – all en route to getting drafted by the Mariners 11th overall in the 2016 MLB Draft.
There is an excess of talent in the Mariners organization, from the 26 on the Major League roster to players coming out of baseball’s current top farm system. But Lewis may be their best offensive player when healthy and is coming for someone’s locker in the near future.
KYLE LEWIS ROBS A HOME RUN pic.twitter.com/4ch9mXaz33
— Skylar Lewis (@RealSkylarLewis) September 15, 2020
Lewis will join J.P. Crawford, who has been mashing at the plate this season, showing off his new found power swing. Crawford is currently sixth in the league in on base percentage and ninth in the league in OPS.
There’s no timetable for Lewis’ return to the Major League lineup, but those scary hours are surely on the horizon sooner rather than later.