Jarred Kelenic interview: Mariners rookie on what he’s learned, how team has accepted new players
The Mariners really needed to find a way to win in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Texas Rangers. They found it thanks to Jarred Kelenic.
Seattle’s highly-touted rookie center fielder led off the bottom of the ninth with a hit between the Rangers’ center and right fielders, ending up on second base with a hustle double. A few batters later, Luis Torrens brought Kelenic home with a single crushed off the wall in center, giving the Mariners a 2-1 win.
Kelenic, who also drove in Seattle’s first run of the night with a bases-loaded walk, was thinking two bases out of the box on his leadoff hit, as he told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Thursday morning.
“One-hundred percent,” Kelenic said when asked if he knew he was going for a double once he made contact. “With the situation in the game, it’s a tight game… right when I hit that ball, I was going no matter what.”
The 22-year-old Kelenic has been finding success at the plate with much more regularity as of late, especially when compared to the rough start he had earlier in the season after making his MLB debut. He went back to Triple-A Tacoma for roughly a month as a result, but he entered Wednesday with a slash line of .264/.350/.491 over his last 14 games for an .841 OPS along with three home runs, three doubles, 11 RBIs, seven walks and eight runs scored.
Kelenic provided a view into how he’s been able to get on track in the big leagues.
“The biggest thing is always falling back on the things that you can control,” he said. “… I can’t control – two nights ago I hit a line drive, a rocket, and the second baseman made a diving play to end the game. And as frustrating as that is, at the end of the day when I walked back into the clubhouse after the game, I looked at it as, you know, I did everything I could control. I swung at a good pitch, I put a good swing (on it), I hit it extremely hard. I can’t control where they’re playing. So then coming into the next day I’m not thinking, ‘Man, I just lost us the game. I didn’t get a hit tonight.’ It’s a different mentality.”
Further reading from this week: Kelenic comfortable for first time in MLB
Mariners clubhouse reaction to trade deadline moves
The big story over the past few weeks with the Mariners has been how the team’s trade of closer Kendall Graveman to the Houston Astros, who the Mariners were in the middle of playing a series against, was received both in the fan base and by members of the team. Kelenic provided some insight into how he and his teammates reacted to the move and how they’ve since embraced their new teammates acquired at the trade deadline – Joe Smith and Abraham Toro from Houston, Tyler Anderson from Pittsburgh, and Diego Castillo from Tampa Bay.
“When we lost Kendall, I think the day that it happened it was definitely hard for a lot of us just because everyone gets to see the numbers and the talent level of Kendall, but what people really don’t get to see is just the genuine person that he is and the leader that he is and how much he affected our clubhouse in such a positive way,” Kelenic said. “That was something that was hard for us to let go right away. After the next day or the day after that, I felt that we accepted the guys that we got, brought them in, and really decided that the culture that we were building in the clubhouse, that these guys were now going to be a part of it. … It was definitely frustrating in the beginning but now it’s time to move on and try to win with these guys.”
The presence of Smith, one of the more veteran players in the game at 37 years old and the MLB active leader for career pitching appearances, is something Kelenic said has made a quick impact.
“We’ve got a really good group of guys now. Especially Joe Smith, who has been around a while. He’s really stepped up in that leadership role, especially with us younger guys.”
More from Kelenic
• Did hitting a home run in his first game at Yankee Stadium last week mean more than a usual homer? “One-hundred percent. Yankee Stadium is definitely a bucket list place where I wanted to play in my career, and in my first game there to hit a home run to take the lead was definitely – it was awesome. I was extremely excited about that one.”
— MLB (@MLB) August 6, 2021
• How has changing his batting stance from a crouch to standing more upright helped him at the plate? “It changed my eye level so pitches up don’t look so high and pitches down look down. Just because that’s where pitchers make their money is getting people to chase on the pitches down, and I felt like early on I was chasing a lot at those and not swinging at the pitches up in the zone that I could handle, so just having a more upright stance is really helping just see the ball better.”
You can hear the full interview with Kelenic in the podcast at this link or in the player below. The segment starts around the 25-minute mark.