Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto: How Jarred Kelenic’s been pitched, who Julio Rodríguez compares to

Sep 16, 2021, 11:55 AM | Updated: 2:26 pm
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic reacts after hitting a foul ball against the Boston Red Sox during the ninth inning. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ playoff hopes for 2021 aren’t dead, but they took a massive dive after dropping the final two games of a three-game set to the Boston Red Sox.

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After taking the first game 5-4 on Monday night, Seattle fell 8-4 Tuesday after allowing six runs in the final two innings then lost 9-4 in extra innings Wednesday in the series finale.

Rookie Jarred Kelenic came within inches of a walkoff hit in the ninth inning, but his potential double landed foul and he eventually struck out to send the game to the 10th inning.

On Thursday, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto joined Mike Salk for The Jerry Dipoto Show on 710 ESPN Seattle to discuss the recent series, Kelenic’s play, the future of a top prospect and much more.

“It would have been a huge moment, obviously, and in retrospect we all walk out of there feeling a lot different than ultimately we did, but it didn’t happen,” Dipoto said of Kelenic’s ball going foul.

While the end result wasn’t what Dipoto or the Mariners wanted, he did make sure to note the positives of the team’s experience.

“These moments, having a chance to go and take those kinds of at-bats and pitch the type of innings our young pitchers are pitching in these situations is just invaluable for our growth, and I think yesterday was, too,” he said. “Disappointing end aside, it was a phenomenal series with the Red Sox. We played neck and neck with them the whole series and we’re showing ourselves we can, which this team knows.”

Jarred Kelenic

Kelenic has had his share of struggles as a rookie, evidenced by a .166/.243/.304 slash line and -2.3 WAR. Salk pointed to how pitchers and opposing teams have approached Kelenic, pitching to him like he’s a veteran with plenty of MLB experience and success. Dipoto shared his thoughts on how Kelenic has been pitched to in 2021.

“I don’t think it’s common for a rookie,” Dipoto said. “I do think that there’s been enough I guess fanfare around Jarred that that was not unexpected. He and I have had a conversation where we discussed that. ‘They know who you are, they know where you are all the time, and to that point, the umpires know who you are, and they’re going to test you from time to time and see how far they can push you.’ Part of growth as a major league player is being able to adapt to that, to overcome … It’s a very unique back and forth to experience at the major league level and I think Jarred’s experienced all of that and then some in his first year.”

Julio Rodríguez

Kelenic arrived to the big leagues with a lot of hype because he was, at the time, a top five prospect in all of baseball. He wasn’t the only player in Seattle’s farm who was rated that highly, either.

The other player is fellow outfielder Julio Rodríguez, who has put up video game-like numbers between High-A and Double-A this year in addition to playing for the Dominican Republic in the Olympics.

Between the two minor league levels, Rodríguez is slashing .353/.449/.575 with 13 home runs, 46 RBIs, 42 walks and 19 stolen bases in just 70 games.

Salk asked Dipoto what Rodríguez can be at the MLB level when he makes his eventual debut.

“I hope what you just walked through from a statistical perspective,” Dipoto said. “And we’re even more impressed by the person.”

Dipoto said that Rodríguez has had “a very positive impact” on the Mariners despite not even playing in Triple-A yet. That’s because Rodríguez is “vibrant” and ” just attracts people and teammates that just creates clubhouse harmony in a fun, together type of way.”

“I’m really looking forward to when he gets here to Seattle,” Dipoto said. “He is an ultra-talented player who we feel is right on the doorstep. A lot of what we’re doing right now is laying the foundation for what we think is a long run of successful, what we’ve called sustainable championship rosters here. We think that’s happening as we speak and we know that Julio is part of that when it really starts to flourish.”

People love to make comparisons between prospects and former players, and Dipoto said Rodríguez reminds him of a very good outfielder who starred in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“A guy that always comes to mind is the young version of Jesse Barfield when he was with the Blue Jays,” Dipoto said. “That really just physical, athletic look.”

Dipoto then went on to praise how Rodríguez has built his body since he signed with the Mariners when he was just 16 years old.

“Typically as players mature they gain strength, and in Julio’s case he gained strength and he really toned his body in a different way than we might have expected when he was 16 years old,” Dipoto said. “… He actually made himself faster, which is maybe the tool in baseball that doesn’t naturally evolve once you get into your 20s. And it did and he went out there and he worked hard on it and he got faster, which is hard to do.”

Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto: How Jarred Kelenic’s been pitched, who Julio Rodríguez compares to