SEATTLE MARINERS

Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez: Working on CF, pushing for opening day spot

Mar 18, 2022, 8:44 AM

Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Mariners reacts a stolen base against the Rockies during 2021 spring traning. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners have ingredients in place to do something special in 2022, and that’s with an eventual long-term contributor waiting in the wings.

Drayer: All eyes now on Mariners OF — and Julio Rodríguez’s role in it

That player is outfielder Julio Rodríguez, a sweet-swinging 21 year old who absolutely destroyed minor league pitching in 2021 between High-A and Double-A.

Rodríguez, who is the current No. 2 overall prospect in the game according to Baseball America and No. 3 per MLB Pipeline, is someone many scouts and analysts believe can be a perennial All-Star and franchise cornerstone for the Mariners. Not only do the Mariners themselves agree, they’re also not ruling out the possibility of him skipping Triple-A and debuting in Game 1 of the 2022 season.

“He’ll be here (at major league spring training) until the end, minimally,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said Thursday on Seattle Sports 710 AM, “and he might wind up out there when we break camp on opening day.”

We’ll have more insight on Rodríguez from Thursday’s Jerry Dipoto Show on SeattleSports.com in a later article, but the charismatic Rodríguez himself recently joined The Mike Salk Show and covered plenty in a 12-minute in-person interview from Arizona on Tuesday. Find the interview in the player here, and read a bit of what the big outfielder had to say below.

Center field

Dipoto and Mariners manager Scott Servais have both mentioned that Rodríguez has been working hard on his speed and outfield defense, making him a candidate to play center field. That wasn’t always thought to be a possibility due to his size (he reportedly grew an inch to 6 foot 4 this offseason), but Rodríguez is relishing the challenge.

“I just want to be able to play them all,” Rodríguez said when asked about working on playing center. “I just want to be able to help the team in whatever way they need me. And I want to put my body, my mind, everything in the best position that I can to help the team win every single game.”

Opening day

Rodríguez has yet to play a single inning in the majors or even Triple-A, and with a shortened spring training and a good deal of outfield depth ahead of him on Seattle’s roster, making the team for opening day is a tall task. Securing a spot on the big league club for the April 7 opener in Minnesota is just another challenge he’s excited to tackle.

“I mean, that’s always gonna be a goal,” Rodríguez said of breaking camp with the Mariners. “I can’t wait to compete. I can’t wait to do the best I can. And you know, as everybody know, that’s my dream – to help the team win and just get into the big leagues.”

Why Seattle

Rodríguez, unlike many of the talented young prospects the Mariners have in the farm system, actually chose the organization as he signed with Seattle as an international free agent at just 16 years old.

So why the Mariners over the other 29 MLB teams?

“It was in the signing period and all that and I just felt like it was the best (place) for me,” he told Salk. “There was something that was telling me, ‘OK, the Mariners are that team that’s gonna help you develop into that player that you want to become.'”

What did he know about the city of Seattle before signing with the Mariners?

“I knew the Space Needle. Honestly, I used to watch the SuperSonics when I was a kid,” Rodríguez said.

“Is that true?” Salk responded.

“Yeah, I swear to God,” Rodríguez replied.

Olympics

Rodríguez played in just 74 minor league games in 2021, but that was partly because he also represented his native Dominican Republic in the Olympics in Tokyo.

Rodríguez shined in Olympic play, hitting .417 with a home run, three extra-base hits, four RBIs and three runs scored in 24 at-bats, and playing a key part in the Dominican Republic winning the Bronze medal.

Rodríguez called the experience “really fun.”

“Honestly, that hands down so far is the best baseball experience I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “I was representing my country for the first time in my life and we won the bronze medal for my country. And (we made) history. That was the first time in the history of my country that we won (an Olympic medal). That had never been done ever in the Dominican Republic.”

Sendoff

At the close of the interview, Rodríguez thanked Salk for his time and Mariners fans for their continual support.

“Thank you. Thank you for having me here. I just want to tell you thank you for the love. I know if you guys are watching this, thank you for the love. I’m gonna keep doing my best.”

More Mariners coverage from SeattleSports.com

Shannon Drayer: Evan White returns to M’s with newfound perspective
Dipoto addresses need for SP, whether M’s will add another bat
Mariners Notebook: How Luis Torrens will find his way into lineup
Drayer: The “good vibes only” of Eugenio Suárez fit right in with M’s
Scott Servais: Mariners have ‘outstanding’ depth, can compete with anybody

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