Mariners Takeaways: Jerry Dipoto on Kyle Lewis, Hot Stove focus and more
If you missed it, Tuesday was unofficially Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis Day on 710 ESPN Seattle with the young Mariners star, manager Scott Servais and general manager Jerry Dipoto all making appearances on shows.
Dipoto took his turn in the afternoon with Tom, Jake and Stacy, and of course he was thrilled to see Lewis unanimously take the top honor for a rookie.
“It’s awesome,” Dipoto said. “This last week has been such a nice celebration of our young players and to some degree the first wave of what we have been able to accomplish in re-setting our roster. He’s emblematic of what we want our players to do and to be.”
In the 15-minute conversation, Dipoto showed appreciation for all that Lewis has accomplished and contributed since suffering a devastating knee injury shortly after being drafted.
“The two years immediately following that, you’ve never seen anybody exhibit higher character, work ethic, and as a result we couldn’t be happier for him and couldn’t be prouder that we picked the right guy on that day in 2016.”
Let’s look at some other highlights from the conversation.
• As excited as Dipoto is for Lewis, he was disappointed that another Mariners rookie, Justus Sheffield, did not pick up any ROY votes.
“The guy I feel like got really got lost in the weeds was Justus Sheffield, who for the life of me the only thing I can think of is the voters forgot he was a rookie because he was on the prospect radar for so long,” Dipoto said. “He’s still just 24 years old. To go out and have what I think was the best season by most measures of any rookie pitcher in the league and then not get a vote in Rookie of the Year was unfortunate. Probably reflective of the fact that Kyle hogged the votes, rightfully so, with the voters who watched the Mariners.
“Justus Sheffield had a terrific first season as a major leaguer and I feel badly that he didn’t get recognized for what he did because he also really stepped up and did some wonderful things.”
• Dipoto gave a quick but interesting look at what should be the future outfield of the Mariners, pointing out that aside from what they bring on the field, “They are three good people who are wired in different ways.”
Lewis: “Incredibly thoughtful, mindful guy. He’s quiet and well prepared and although the camera loves him he’s about as thoughtful and careful in how he goes about his preparation as anybody.”
Julio Rodríguez: “He’s fun and the big smile and it’s glowing and he’s trying to find the camera.”
Jarred Kelenic: “He’s intense and a grinder.”
• A question that has been on the minds of many is what impact the shortened 2020 season will have on the Mariners’ development and plan to return to postseason contention.
“We do feel like we are on track,” Dipoto said. “We feel like if we had to guess what this has done to our timeline, it probably has set us back about a half a season or so simply because we don’t know what that loss of time for our prospects will result in.”
This is consistent with what Dipoto has been saying for some time now. Those that could play got plenty out of the 60-game season but the concern lies with those who couldn’t play. To that end, Dipoto illustrated in the interview the Mariners’ efforts in getting those players work and games by running a number of programs such as the High Performance/Instructional League Camp in Arizona and a camp at the academy in the Dominican Republic.
• On offseason additions, Dipoto’s primary focus is on adding bullpen pieces, but he is perhaps going about it in a different way than originally thought. In his end of the season press conference, Dipoto said it was likely that bullpen additions would be made through free agency. On Tuesday, he went in a slightly different direction.
“We have as always been burning up the lines talking to clubs about ways we might be able to match up in trades for controllable pitching, particularly in the bullpen, and we will continue to monitor the free agent market.”
• On Mitch Haniger’s return from two early 2020 surgeries, Dipoto admitted that nobody, Haniger included, had a great understanding on how complicated it was going to be to go through the rehab for the injury that initially put him out of action during the 2019 season. It appears, however, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.
“We are encouraged,” Dipoto said. “Hanny is in as good a place as he has been in than more than a year and a half. He’s come through it, he’s now back to full strength, he’s starting to incorporate some baseball activity into his workout routines.
“We won’t know truly how that looks on a field until we get into January and February, but we were just encouraged with how positive he seems about where he is from a strength and explosive athleticism standpoint.”
For more from Dipoto, including what he saw in Lewis in center field and a breakdown of what went wrong at the plate for Evan White, listen to the full interview when the podcast becomes available at 4 p.m.
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Jake & Stacy