Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto details how Jarred Kelenic is evolving his game

Apr 3, 2022, 8:52 AM
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic homers against the Royals on Sept. 19, 2021. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

The Mariners and Jarred Kelenic are both hoping for significant strides in the young outfielder’s second major league season, and there have been hints in spring training at how he’ll go about that in 2022.

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Kelenic, who is still just 22 years old, hasn’t had the results on the stat sheet that maybe he’s been looking for in Cactus League play (.185/.214/.222 slash line in 28 plate appearances), but when it comes to what his focus is on, Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto thinks he’s on the right track.

In an interview on Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show in March, Kelenic talked about the adjustments he’s made at the plate, thanks in part to working this offseason with legendary slugger and former MLB hitting coach Mark McGwire.

“If my swing can look effortless, that’s what I want,” Kelenic said to Salk. “I want people that when I hit the ball, they’re like, ‘Man, he made it look so easy.’ Then I know I’m doing the right thing.”

So how is that going?

“I would say it’s working,” Dipoto said Thursday during his weekly show on Seattle Sports 710 AM. “If you look at a spray chart of where Jarred has hit the ball this spring – especially where he’s found his hits – it’s all up the middle (or) to the left side of the field, which is the polar opposite of what we saw a year ago.”

Part of that is a result of Kelenic’s emphasis on swinging easier.

“He’s really been focused on an easy swing and not grinding on the bat too hard, not focusing on the pull side, trying to hit every ball out of the ballpark,” Dipoto said. “Just focusing on being a good hitter and then letting his natural power take over. I think that has been a positive development, and we’ve seen him drive the ball from center field on over to the left field foul pole in ways that we just didn’t last year.”

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While the hits haven’t necessarily been there in Cactus League games to showcase that development, an ability to hit to the opposite field with power was the first thing Kelenic showed when facing live pitching this spring. He homered in a live batting practice to left field off Mariners starter Chris Flexen not just once but twice on March 15, as Seattle Sports Mariners insider Shannon Drayer caught on video from Peoria, Ariz.

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Another area of improvement for Kelenic going into the season is his defense, particularly in center field, where he played the majority of his games as a rookie in 2021. He’s seen regular time in center this spring, as has top prospect Julio Rodríguez.

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Dipoto provided his insight on what he’s seen from both and how center field will be handled this year.

“I think (Kelenic) came in ready to play center field, and between he and Julio, it’s been a positive this spring,” Dipoto said. “And as you’ve seen, we’ve rotated guys. He hasn’t only played center field, he’s played all three, as has Julio. Most of their reps have been in center field, and we’re pleased with what we see.”

You can hear the interview with Kelenic at this link, and Thursday’s edition of The Jerry Dipoto Show here or in the player below.

Salk: Nothing more important for Mariners than for Jarred Kelenic to succeed

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