PEORIA, Ariz. (AP)Kyle Lewis showed late last season that he’s ready for a regular role in the Seattle Mariners outfield, and he hopes his short time in the major leagues following a September callup is a preview of the kind of offensive production he can provide.
Lewis homered in his major league debut off the Cincinnati Reds’ Trevor Bauer. He went on to become the first player in major league history to hit a home run in six of his first 10 career games, and the second player in big league history to homer in each of his first three career games.
“I feel like I was in a good spot going into that, you know, swinging the bat well,” Lewis recalled when asked about his torrid start, which came after he was called up from Double-A Arkansas. “Just trying to stay in the moment. Locked in with what I had been working on and trying to be free.”
Lewis, a first-round pick in the 2016 first-year player draft, offered a glimmer of hope for the future last year for fans who suffered through a 68-94 season. He’s changed his uniform number from 30 last season to 1 in 2020.
“Kyle got off to a great start for us and it was certainly something that we needed organizationally,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I mean, he was a first-round pick. You like those guys to show up and kind of excite your fan base right out of the chute. I think he did that.”
Lewis isn’t looking at taking a next step in his career. He’s just trying to have a long baseball career.
“That has ups and downs, and whatever path that is, I’m just along for the ride,” he said.
Lewis has developed a routine starting from the time he arrives at the ballpark. It’s part of his plan to be as consistent as he can be, and includes knowing what time before a game that he will go hit in the batting cage.
Lewis’ displays in batting practice – and his 6-foot-4 frame – are drawing attention. He hit the longest home run of the season for the Mariners in 2019, 457 feet on his third day in the majors.
“Kyle looks great this spring. He’s moving good. I think he’s gotten taller,” Servais joked. “I really like where he’s at.”
At 24, Lewis fits right in with the young Mariners who are part of the team’s rebuilding project. Competition among players striving for big league experience is among the themes in camp, and Lewis views himself as an everyday player who can make an impact.
“Nobody’s taking it easy. Everybody’s going out there and competing,” Lewis said. “Even in small things like drill work, everybody’s trying to get better. It brings a lot of energy to practice every day.”
NOTES: Servais, on Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki being tabbed to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day in Seattle: “I can’t imagine him going out there with a golf shirt and a pair of khakis on.” … Suzuki pitched to hitters Friday during a situational game drill, drawing a large crowd of onlookers. He mixed in offspeed pitches with fastballs and induced a few double-play groundouts. … The Mariners made a roster move Friday, claiming RHP Taylor Williams off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers and designating RHP Phillips Valdez for assignment. Williams made 71 career relief appearances with the Brewers.