Jerry Dipoto Show: His future with the Mariners, Flexen’s consistency, Lewis’ return
Aug 26, 2021, 11:21 AM
The Mariners are doing something that not many expected of them entering this season, and that’s playing meaningful games in late-August into the month of September as they try and end the longest current playoff drought in American professional sports.
The man behind the team’s roster is general manager Jerry Dipoto, who, as you might imagine, is having a lot of fun watching his team night in and night out playing in these meaningful games.
Dipoto joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant for the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show and discussed his team being in the playoff race and much more. Here’s a bit of what Dipoto had to say Thursday morning.
Dipoto and Co.’s futures in Seattle
Both Dipoto and manager Scott Servais joined the Mariners ahead of the 2016 season and are on the final year of contracts. While the Mariners have exceeded most expectations this season, neither Dipoto or Servais have received a contract offer.
Dipoto made it clear he thinks that he, Servais, and the rest of their staff will be around not just next year, but beyond as well.
“I’m very confident in what’s happening here with the Mariners, and I know our owners are as well,” Dipoto said. “We’ve talked about this intermittently for quite some time now, and I’m certain that we’re going to get something worked out that keeps all of us here in Seattle for the future. And that’s an important step for us.”
Kyle Lewis close to action
The Mariners should be getting a key impact bat back in the lineup soon as 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis is recovering from a torn meniscus that has kept him out of action since May 31.
Dipoto said Lewis is expected to begin a rehab assignment very soon, but he doesn’t know yet if that will be this weekend as has been reported. He also described how the Mariners will utilize the young outfielder when he does rejoin the big league club.
“Just having visited with Kyle briefly yesterday, he feels like he’s in a good place,” Dipoto said. “What I can address is what we expect when he comes back is some combination of (being a) center fielder, potentially getting a start at another outfield position – he could get a day in left (field) – and a day or two at DH and bank in off days to make sure we keep him as fresh as possible and not overwhelm him while he’s coming back.”
The Mariners are in the thick of a playoff race and Lewis’ bat and glove will be a big boost, but Dipoto made it clear that the team will be cautious with him.
“One thing we’re all confident in is that when Kyle steps back out on the field, he has a chance to be an impact player for us, and we want to make sure he stays out there as frequently or as consistently as he can without putting him in a position of feeling fatigued and doing something to take a step backwards physically,” he said.
Chris Flexen’s stellar year
Perhaps no member of the 2021 Mariners has been more surprising than starting pitcher Chris Flexen, who in 2020 was pitching professionally in Korea after a rocky start to his MLB career with the New York Mets.
In parts of three seasons with the Mets, Flexen had a 3-11 record with an 8.07 ERA. Since joining the Mariners, Flexen is 11-5 with a 3.54 ERA in 140 innings, leading the team in wins, ERA, innings pitched and starts (24). He’s also the only starting pitcher who’s been in the starting rotation for the entirety of the 2021 season.
Paul Gallant asked Dipoto about the biggest change he’s seen from Flexen since he returned to the U.S. from Korea, but Dipoto said that Flexen’s transformation into a very good MLB starter really goes back to the tail end of his time with the Mets.
“He reshaped a lot of his pitches, he reshaped his body, which he will tell you was maybe the biggest step for him,” Dipoto said. “He lost a good deal of weight, he is a more athletic person than he was maybe before this started and his endurance has been terrific. He got himself in great shape, he showed up to spring training with four average to plus major league pitches and a willingness to use them all in every count.”
Flexen utilizes a fastball, cutter, changeup and curveball, and many starts you will see him throw all four pitches fairly evenly. That Flexen is willing to throw all four pitches in any count to any batter is what really stands out to Dipoto. He’s also seen growth in how he attacks hitters since his first start to now.
“He reads swings quite well, and I’ve seen him get better. I’ve seen him get better with his right on right changeup, I’ve seen him get better on the days he feels he has the good curveball and that becomes a huge weapon for him,” Dipoto said. “And on the day he doesn’t, he goes to his cutter more often.”
So how exactly would Dipoto describe Flexen?
“He adapts and I think that’s a sign of not just a resilient pitcher, but a consistent pitcher,” he said. “And I think that’s what he’s been this year is our most consistent starter.”
Wins are wins
The Mariners are just 2.5 games back of the second American League Wild Card spot, but they’re -56 in run differential, which has led many to doubt the legitimacy of Seattle as a true playoff contender. Servais poked fun at that after the team’s Tuesday win, saying the Mariners lead the league in “fun differential.”
On Thursday, Dipoto spoke briefly about what his team has done this year and the month-plus ahead of them.
“One of the things that we talk about frequently is the fact that while we can get as analytical as any of the other 29 teams … we can it and inspect why things happen, but the reality is the wins that we have achieved to this point of the season are banked,” he said. “They’re in the bank and what we have moving forward is roughly five weeks to see if we can catch up or overtake the leaders. We’ve put ourselves in a position to make it a really exciting month-plus here in Seattle.”
Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.