SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners Notebook: Jarred Kelenic catches eye of new teammate Jesse Winker

Mar 15, 2022, 5:15 PM

Mariners Jarred Kelenic...

Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic hits a solo homer against the Brewers during 2021 spring training. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

PEORIA, Ariz. – With Day 2 of Mariners spring training in the books, it is hard to believe we are now just two days away from the start of games.

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While the feel of this condensed camp is by no means rushed, when you look at the calendar you feel the crunch. In a normal camp you would not see live batting practice (hitting off pitchers rather than coaches) on Day 2, but with most Mariners minor league pitchers having been in Peoria for weeks – participating first in Dominate the Zone Camp and then minor league minicamp – there are starters who are ready to face batters.

Add to this the big leaguers who ramped up on their own during the MLB lockout and arrived before the required report day Sunday, and a number of Mariners hitters were able to face live pitching Tuesday with Baseball America No. 12 overall prospect George Kirby and returning Mariners starter Chris Flexen each pitching three innings.

Flexen threw to catcher Luis Torrens and Kirby to Tom Murphy, who also took care of announcing the hitters loudly and enthusiastically much to the delight of teammates and larger than usual crowd that was present.

The hitters included the additions from Monday’s big trade, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez, as well as Mitch Haniger, Jarred Kelenic, No. 2 overall Baseball America prospect Julio Rodríguez, and recent minor league signing and spring training invitee Steven Souza.

The offensive star of the day was Kelenic, who hit not just one but two opposite field home runs off Flexen.

Kelenic’s at-bats caught the eye of the one of the new Mariners.

“Jarred’s a special player, man,” Winker said. “Special talent. Only 22 years old. Built like that, like a running back. Great bat speed, great swing. I’m all for left-handed swings and he’s got a very pretty one. It’s going to be fun to play alongside him and watch him flourish and become a superstar. I think that’s what both him and Julio are going to become.”

Rodríguez came up empty in his at-bats, facing a steady diet of good breaking and offspeed pitches from both pitchers, something he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to see having barely played above A-ball. The at-bats looked very much like his early at-bats in spring training last year before making quick adjustments. Will we see the same this spring? Stay tuned.

On the pitching end, Flexen struggled with his command throughout and seemed to tire in his final inning, leaving a number of pitches up. Not surprising for a first outing.

Kirby, while effective – it was debatable whether or not he gave up a “hit” – did not seem to have the command he is known for as he fell behind most hitters he faced. Still, he got back in counts, sat 97-98 mph in his first two innings and displayed a good changeup, a few that got Rodríguez and another that left Suárez shaking his head. If this was an off day for him, you take it.

Mariners notes

• The starting pitchers for the first few Cactus League games – which start Friday – have yet to be announced or written on the white board in manager Scott Servais’ office. And no, the question of who will start opening day has not been asked. The clues are usually found on the white board as the M’s work backwards from opening day when assigning spring work, but nothing there yet. Servais said that it is likely he will go with pitchers from the minor league minicamp to pitch in Friday’s opener against the Padres as the big leaguers continue to build up.

M’s spring training radio schedule on Seattle Sports 710 AM

• Heard in the bullpen following a strong Paul Sewald throwing session was Casey Sadler, to no one in particular: “Paul Sewald, two-inning opening day save. Good lord!”

• Ex-Mariners alert: The Mariners have signed first baseman Mike Ford to a minor league contract. Ford was in camp with the Mariners in 2017 as a Rule 5 draft pick but was returned to the Yankees before the start of the season. In parts of three seasons with the Yankees, he had a slash line of .199/.301/.422 for a .723 OPS.

New Mariners OF Jesse Winker: “We’re gonna be really good”

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