Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger is likely to miss the start of the 2020 season with a core-muscle injury, the team announced Thursday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger is likely to miss the start of the 2020 season with a core-muscle injury, the team announced Thursday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Haniger suffers setback, likely to miss start of M’s season

He is likely out 6-to-8 weeks with a core-muscle injury related to last season’s ruptured testicle.

SEATTLE — Mitch Haniger’s injury-plagued 2019 season in carrying over into 2020.

The Seattle Mariners outfielder, one of the few established batters on the Mariners’ roster, will likely miss all of spring training and perhaps the start of the season as he faces surgery to repair a core-muscle injury.

Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto made the announcement during the Mariners’ pre-spring training media event held Thursday morning at T-Mobile Park.

“We found out Monday night that Mitch had had a setback and it’s probably going to result in a core surgery that might cause him to miss most or all of spring training and likely delay the start of this season,” Dipoto said. “This is all coming together over the course of the last 40 hours or so, so it’s still very fresh.”

Dipoto said Haniger suffered the setback on Monday afternoon, then received the prognosis from doctors on Tuesday. If Haniger undergoes surgery, as expected, he’s likely to be out six-to-eight weeks, which threatens his availability for Seattle’s season opener on March 26 at T-Mobile Park.

Dipoto said the injury is related to the injuries that limited the 2018 All-Star to 63 games last season.

“We’re hopeful the diagnosis and the surgery to follow will result in him not experiencing any more trouble with this,” Dipoto said.

Haniger has been one of the core members of Seattle’s roster as the Mariners go through their rebuilding process. In 2018 Haniger slugged 26 home runs, compiled a .859 OPS, and by the wins-above-replacement metric he was far and away Seattle’s best player.

However, Haniger suffered a ruptured testicle last June and never returned. He finished the season with 15 homers and a .778 OPS in 63 contests.

Dipoto said Haniger was having “perhaps his best offseason” when he suffered his setback.

“It’s disappointing,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I really looked forward to having him back. Just putting that name in the lineup is a nice security blanket.”

Though it’s not expected to be a season-long issue, Dipoto said Haniger’s injury will open up more opportunity in Seattle’s outfield. He said Mallex Smith is the only certainty, while the likes of Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop will receive greater looks. Dipoto also said he’d look into the possibility of adding a veteran via free agency.

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