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Hot-hitting Kyle Lewis strengthens his bid for AL Rookie of the Year

Kyle Lewis’ talent and enthusiasm are reminiscent of another Seattle Mariners center fielder and fan favorite.  (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)
Kyle Lewis’ talent and enthusiasm are reminiscent of another Seattle Mariners center fielder and fan favorite. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – It’s not fair to Kyle Lewis to make the comparison directly, but he plays baseball with such a casual easiness – and with such soothing joy – that it’s hard not to remind one at least a little bit of a certain Hall of Fame center fielder who starred in Seattle in the 1990s.

No, no one should think of Lewis as the next Ken Griffey Jr. Not yet. Not after a mere 47 major league games.

Lewis, the Mariners’ 25-year-old center fielder, has emerged as the centerpiece of Seattle’s rebuilding efforts with a torrid first month of this truncated 2020 season. He has also positioned himself as the clear favorite in the race for the American League Rookie of the Year award.

At the midway point in this 60-game season, Lewis leads all major league rookies in hits (39), batting average (.368), runs batted in (19), OPS (1.041) and home runs (seven, tied with Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox).

“That’s Showtime,” Mariners starting pitcher Justin Dunn said in a video call of his good friend. “Hopefully, here in a couple months it’ll be ‘R.O.Y.’ He’s a blessed player and he’s been doing this for a while. I’m glad for him to come out and do it on this level and for people to finally see and really understand what he can do on a baseball field.”

Lewis is tied for the lead in the AL with a .456 on-base percentage.

“Kyle’s seeing the ball great,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s very easy; he’s not swinging hard. You can see it. His effort level is in a perfect spot right now, understanding where he’s at and the pitches he’s looking for.

“I hope we can keep him there all year. It’s some kind of fun to watch and to see him mature and grow – and the confidence is rubbing off on some other guys, too.”

Servais said he’s been pleased with how well his young Mariners have played in the first 30 games of the season.

“I’m superexcited. I really am,” he said. “Again, not really knowing how this all was going to play out with our young players, and then (add in) everything else with the (COVID-19) protocols – that’s the thing that’s been quite a bit different that you all don’t get to see every day. Just the interaction is not the same. The clubhouse is spread out and not everyone is hanging out in the cafeteria, and that’s where a lot of really good baseball discussions (traditionally) happen. So I was a little worried about how that was going to progress as far as the development of players and talking the game, but what we’ve seen on the field, the number of young guys who have stepped up and grabbed hold of something here, it’s been great to see.

“And we’re going to find out even more here in the second half. So I’m really happy with the development. We all would’ve liked to win a few more games, but coming into the season it was all about the development of our players and make sure they continue to get better, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

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