Scott Servais: Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic in great place for 2022

Mar 23, 2022, 7:03 AM
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Jarred Kelenic reacts after his home run against the Diamondbacks on Sept. 12. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

This time last year, all eyes were on Jarred Kelenic at Mariners spring training. And for very good reason.

Robbie Ray as advertised in his spring Mariners debut

The young outfielder, 21 years old at the time, was in major league camp and knocking on the MLB doorstep as a top five prospect in all of baseball. And while Kelenic would start the season in the minors, it wasn’t long until he made his highly-anticipated MLB debut, which arrived in early May.

Unfortunately for Kelenic and the Mariners, his first taste of MLB action did not go according to plan.

Kelenic slashed just .096/.185/.193 in his first 23 games up from Triple-A Tacoma before being sent back down. After another month in the minors, Kelenic returned after the All-Star break and, while better, still struggled in July and August, slashing .181/.263/.315.

But it all clicked for Kelenic in his final 29 games of the year when he posted a line of .248/.331/.524 with seven home runs, 20 RBIs and 14 extra-base hits. Over a 162-game season, those last three numbers would equate to 39 home runs, 112 RBIs and 79 extra-base hits.

That came with the Mariners in a playoff race, too.

The name of Kelenic, who finished at .181/.265/.350 with 14 home runs in 93 games as a rookie, came up quite a bit when Mariners manager Scott Servais joined Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show last week from spring training in Peoria, Ariz.

As a top prospect, Kelenic put a lot of pressure on himself last year from the very start, Servais said. But the young outfielder is entering the 2022 season in a very different way.

“He learned a ton about being able to slow it down,” Servais said. “He’s in a different mindset now than we saw at any point last spring. Last spring it was all, ‘I’m going to make the team, I’m going to show these guys I’m ready,’ and he was out to prove everything every minute of every day. Now I think he feels like, ‘Hey, I’m just part of the group.'”

Unlike last year, there’s no doubt Kelenic will be on the Mariners opening day roster in April, Servais said.

Kelenic still has some areas to improve, and according to Servais he’s working especially hard on his defense, which will be key as he is the front-runner to man center field this year.

“He’s focused on getting better in the outfield,” Servais said. “I think he’s in great shape. He’s running probably better than he ever has. He spent a lot of time in the offseason making sure he didn’t get too big and bulky. I feel good about him in center field but he’s got things to work on. He knows that. But I love where he’s at right now mentally as well as physically.”

Kelenic “did everything at 100%” in 2021, Servais said. By playing that way, “it just takes its toll over time.”

“You don’t have to swing 100% at every pitch that’s thrown up there. If you just square the ball up at 80%, he’s so darn strong and has so much bat speed it’s going to go out of the park.”

A recent conversation with Kelenic has Servais very optimistic that the young Mariners outfielder has turned a corner mentally, and Kelenic specifically brought up arguably the best player in Mariners history in that discussion.

“He made a comment to me the other day when we were talking and he said, ‘I want to make it look easy. The great players make it look easy. Ken Griffey Jr. made the game look easy,'” Servais said. “And I said ‘That’s a great way to look at it.’ Just make contact, square it up, it’ll take care of itself.”

Listen to the interview with Servais at this link or in the player below.

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