Boog Powell knows baseball is all about patience.
And he's willing to wait.
When Nelson Cruz’s right knee became to sore to continue playing on Saturday, the 24-year-old outfielder was pulled from the Tacoma Rainiers game and made his way to Anaheim to join the Mariners. Powell had been promoted, for the third time this season, to the majors.
He made the most of his start on Sunday, getting two hits as the Mariners designated hitter. Whether Powell can find a role with the Mariners remains to be seen.
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Powell said he knows he can play at the highest level. It’s just an issue of being ready when his time comes.
“It's easy to replace a bad guy with a good guy, but it's near impossible to replace a good guy with a good guy,” Powell said. “I know I can be an everyday guy in the major leagues, I know I have the talent... But it’s just timing.”
Powell regained his status as a prospect this spring by batting .577 in 16 games with 15 hits in 26 at-bats. But his push to make the opening day roster was in vain because he still had five games remaining on an 80-game suspension – his second violation – levied last June for failing a drug test while playing at Tacoma.
And there’s the improving state of the Mariners’ outfield. Veteran Jarrod Dyson was acquired for his speed and defense, and rookie Mitch Haniger came over in a trade. Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia showed in promise in late 2016 callups while Powell was on suspension.
“I was confused, I was sad,” said Powell, who was also suspended 50 games while playing for the Class-A Beloit Snappers in 2014. “I was the guy last year. I was going to get called up, but it all happened and all I can do is just learn from it and move forward.”
Powell couldn't be in contact with the team or coaches. He went back home to Arizona where he had a lot of time to think, and work on his game.
“I went to the spring training complex everyday – hit, threw and worked out. I did everything I could to keep going with baseball, and that went a long way.”
He’s shown, in Triple-A, why the Mariners acquired him in 2015 from the Tampa Bay Rays as a potential leadoff hitter. In 41 games with the Rainiers, he’s hitting a team-high .331 with an on-base percentage of .426 and nine stolen bases.
Rainiers hitting coach Dave Berg credited Powell with having natural talent for hitting the ball, calling him a “pest” at the plate.
“He has the ability to get the barrel to the ball,” Berg said. “He gets the barrel to the baseball and hits the ball hard. When he scuffles his hands are kind of stuck, but when he gets them ready on time, he’s a beast out there.”
Powell got his first taste of the majors when Haniger went on the disabled list on April 29 with a strained oblique. He got four at-bats before being sent back down on May 2.
Two weeks later, he was back with the Mariners. This time, he stayed up until for almost a month, recording his first major-league hit and batting .179 in 28 at-bats.
Powell’s role was limited in Seattle, but said not playing everyday taught him how to be a supportive bench player. And also made him realize he still had work to do.
“It kind got me down a little bit because I've always been an everyday guy,” Powell said. “Coming back down (to the Rainiers), all I wanted to do was work on my swing and perfect the things that I have been struggling with.
“My swing feels the best it can right now – finally figured that out. And the biggest thing is working on base stealing, so we’re trying to perfect that. As long as I do that stuff, I’ll find a spot.”
Tacoma manager Pat Listach believes Powell has the talent to play in the big leagues. He said Powell’s work ethic, combined with his natural skills, will earn him another chance.
“I love the guy cause he plays the game hard,” Litstach said. “He a very good baseball player, gets on base all the time. He’s gets a lot of hits – he always drawing walks. He’s fun to have.”