When Mitch Haniger was at Cal Poly, he was the type of baseball player who built his skills in the weight room as well as the batting cage.
With plenty of time between weekend series, Haniger spent the past three years sculpting 210 pounds of muscle on his 6-foot-2 frame. The power that went along with it was one of the reasons the Milwaukee Brewers made him the 38th overall pick in June’s amateur draft.
Now that he’s started playing professionally for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Class A Midwest League affiliate of the Brewers, he’s finding out the most drastic change might be the impact playing every day has on his workout time.
“Pro ball’s a lot different because you have to be able to manage and take care of your body,” Haniger said in a phone interview. “In college, you can lift every day. But you can’t do that now because your body will wear down on you.”
So Haniger had to slow down.
“I was just getting used to that stuff,” he said. “I was just getting acclimated.”
“Was” being the key word. After playing just 14 minor league games since signing with Milwaukee, Haniger injured his right knee and will likely miss the rest of the regular season.
All Haniger could say was that he was rehabbing the knee at a team facility in Arizona.
Though the team would rather keep the details private, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Brewers blog reported that Haniger “suffered a partial tear to the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a play at the plate.”
The injury will not require surgery, and the recovery time is expected to last from six to eight weeks. That target would likely keep Haniger out through the end of Wisconsin’s season on Sept. 3.
As it is, Haniger could end his first professional season with only 49 at-bats. The Santa Clara native hit .286 in his short stint, collecting five doubles, a home run and eight RBI for the level commonly referred to as low-A.
Haniger was facing off against a wide range of competition, from other top-round picks to mid- and lower-round selections.
The main difference, he said, is that while many collegiate pitchers rely on craftiness, many more prospects are armed with power fastballs.
“I was doing well,” Haniger said. “There are definitely things I can improve on.”
It was taking time for him to get back into the groove after his junior season at Cal Poly — where he was the Big West Conference player of the year after leading the Big West with 13 home runs and 64 RBI, more than 20 more than his next closest competitor — ended without a trip to an NCAA Regional.
“It’s going to take a week or so to get your bearings straight,” Haniger said. “I was starting to find that the second week. I was there and starting to do a lot better at the plate.”