For the Mariners' Mitch Haniger, one pitch led to three surgeries and so much missed time

Ryan Divish, The Seattle Times on

Published in Baseball

PEORIA, Ariz. -- One pitch changed everything.

In 2019, MLB's 30 teams combined to throw 732,473 pitches. Some went where they were intended, others did not. Some were thrown with conviction, others with regret. And one ended Mitch Haniger's season.

The season before, Haniger logged 687 plate appearances, saw 2,730 pitches and posted All-Star numbers -- a .285/.366/.493 slash line with 38 doubles, 26 homers and 93 RBI.

He was on pace to reach those plate appearances and pitch totals again in 2019.

But on June 6, a bright Thursday afternoon at T-Mobile Park, the 1,219th pitch thrown to Mitch Haniger sent him to the injured list for the rest of the season, led to three surgeries and delayed the start of his 2020 season.

The actual extent of the injury is still to be determined. There is no guarantee Haniger can ever return to his 2018 form or whether the Mariners will ever benefit from him on the field or in a prospect return from a trade.


And yet, Haniger arrived to Mariners camp Wednesday afternoon, six days after his latest surgery, with a level of optimism unexpected from someone who has dealt with so much since that fateful pitch -- a 94 mph fastball from Justin Verlander.

"I'm feeling good right now," he said Thursday. "I'm in a lot less pain which is great. I'm excited to be in camp with the guys and be around everybody. Hopefully, I can contribute to the team as much as I can on this time when I'm not going to be on the field."

The seventh-month ordeal started with that Verlander four-seam fastball that bored in on his hands. There was no malice behind the 0-2 pitch, which was likely trying to set up Haniger for the next pitch, a slider away.

Haniger committed to swinging too early, and the ball caught the bottom half of his bat just below the barrel and shot straight into his groin. Because Haniger wasn't wearing a protective cup, the impact from the baseball dropped Haniger to a knee and put him in immediate misery. Houston catcher Robinson Chirinos saw what happened, asked for time and took a courtesy mound visit to allow Haniger to recover.


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