JAKE AND STACY

Is Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic starting to figure MLB pitching out?

Aug 3, 2021, 11:22 PM
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Jarred Kelenic hit his fourth homer of the season in Tuesday's Mariners win. (AP)
(AP)

Jarred Kelenic’s second stint up with the Mariners this season is certainly going a lot better than his first.

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In 17 games since his July 16 return from Triple-A Tacoma, the 22-year-old outfielder has hits in nine contests, including four of his last five. Perhaps even more important is that he’s cutting down his strikeouts and has started taking more walks – he’s struck out just twice in his last four games and earned eight free passes over his last 12 starts.

The overall numbers still need work – his slash line is .131/.222/.228 for the year – but manager Scott Servais is seeing the positive signs he’s been hoping for out of an integral piece of the Mariners’ future.

“He’s doing a great job controlling the strike zone,” the M’s skipper said Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Scott Servais Show. “You see the quality at-bats… he’ll get down in the count 0-2, 1-2 – we call it 0-2, 1-2 recovery. Can you get back to 3-2? You’re not always going to win the 3-2 (count), you may make an out, but the fact that you’ve gotten back to 3-2, you’ve just made that pitcher really work, and Jarred’s done an outstanding job of that.”

A big part of Kelenic’s recent success is that he changed up his batting stance. No longer is he hunched over the plate, instead standing more upright and seeing to be more relaxed as he waits for pitches to be delivered. Servais said that’s resulting in Kelenic showing a better eye than before.

“The adjustments in his stance, I think it’s really raised his eye level a little bit so he’s not chasing so many balls below the strike zone. The swing’s always there, but his timing’s been better. Seeing the ball better, it’s paying off.”

It sure paid off on Tuesday when Kelenic hammered a home run to dead center in Seattle’s series-clinching 4-2 win over the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays. It was Kelenic’s four homer of the season and second of the Mariners’ current road trip.

Even before Kelenic’s solo shot, Servais was predicting that the 2018 first-round pick would soon show that he’s figuring out MLB pitching.

“I’m still looking for him to get hot,” Servais said. “I’m talking about one of those hot streaks where you’re 8 for 12 and hit about three home runs in that stretch, because I know he’s got that in him. But I’m really encouraged by the quality of his at-bats and how he’s handled things. He’s just much calmer, grinding through it, realizing he can make adjustments.

“He’s doing all the things you’d hope he’d do, and he’s gonna hit that hot streak. I guarantee it.”

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Is Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic starting to figure MLB pitching out?