Just a day after being reinstated from the COVID-related injured list, Mitch Haniger has been again placed back onto the 10-day IL. This time, Haniger has been sidelined by a right high ankle sprain. In the corresponding roster move, outfielder Stuart Fairchild has been called up from Triple-A.
Haniger suffered the injury in his first at-bat last night, rolling his ankle after fouling a pitch. After hitting a single, Haniger had to be replaced on the basepaths by pinch-runner Abraham Toro. An MRI was scheduled for today on Haniger’s ankle, but an IL stint seemed likely even if the injury was relatively mild.
If the MRI reveals a more serious injury, Haniger could miss quite a bit of time, which would be a serious setback for both the outfielder and the Mariners as a whole. Between this ankle sprain and two missed weeks recovering from COVID-19, Haniger has only 36 plate appearances thus far in 2022, so the Mariners have largely been without one of their best hitters.
Another lengthy injury absence also wouldn’t help Haniger’s future market value, as he is slated to hit free agency after the season. Haniger has been at times mentioned as a possible extension or trade candidate for the M’s, though the possibility of a trade would seemingly diminish if this high ankle sprain keeps him sidelined for most or all of the pre-deadline period. Haniger is unfortunately no stranger to the IL, having missed over half of the 2019 season due to a ruptured testicle, and then all of the 2020 season due to surgeries related to a torn adductor muscle.
The Mariners have Jesse Winker, Julio Rodriguez, and Jarred Kelenic lined up as the starting outfield, but all three have struggled badly to begin the 2022 season. Kyle Lewis is still working his way back from knee surgery, and was expected to see mostly DH duty until his knee is fully back up to strength. Between Lewis’ health and the fact that neither Rodriguez or Kelenic have done much of anything at the MLB level, Haniger’s veteran bat was seen as a big stabilizing force in Seattle’s outfield.
Utilityman Dylan Moore figures to get more playing time with Haniger out, plus the Mariners could use Adam Frazier in left field rather than at second base. Billy Hamilton and Steven Souza Jr. are two familiar veteran names at Triple-A, but most immediately, Fairchild will now get another look at the big league level. Fairchild made his Major League debut by playing 12 games with the Diamondbacks in 2021, and the Mariners acquired Fairchild earlier this week after the D’Backs designated Fairchild for assignment.