He’s here — Julio Rodríguez makes Mariners opening day roster

Apr 4, 2022, 8:22 AM | Updated: 7:05 pm
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Julio Rodríguez walks in the Mariners dugout during a March 22 Cactus League game. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Mariners went into spring training with the idea that Julio Rodríguez would be given every chance to show them if he belongs in “the show.”

It turns out they think he does.

Julio Rodríguez on making M’s roster: “It’s a dream day”

The Mariners announced Monday morning that Rodríguez, their top prospect and the No. 2-ranked prospect overall by Baseball America, will be on their roster for opening day Thursday in Minnesota.

There was little doubt going into Sunday that Rodríguez would make the cut, but he made sure to leave absolutely none in a 10-8 Cactus League win over the Kansas City Royals. He went 3 for 4 at the plate, including a home run to right-center and a double, leaving him just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle before he was lifted for a pinch runner in the top of the seventh inning.

Speculation that the 21-year-old Rodríguez would make the Mariners’ roster especially picked up last Thursday after he added an inside-the-park home run to what was already an impressive night that included a single, a walk, a stolen base, and competent defense in center field.

Not only has Rodríguez seen more action that anyone in Seattle’s spring camp, but he’s been the Mariners’ best hitter in Cactus League play. After Sunday’s contest, Rodríguez owns a .419/.471/.839 slash line for a 1.310 OPS over 12 games (34 plate appearances). He’s homered three times, doubled four times, and stolen three bases in four tries while playing all three spots in the outfield. He’s also walked three times to nine strikeouts.

Rodríguez will make the jump straight to the big leagues from Double-A, where he finished last season. In just 217 career games in the minors, he has a .331/.412/.543 slash line for a .955 OPS, with 30 home runs, 58 doubles, 15 triples and 32 stolen bases. He also won a bronze medal playing for his native Dominican Republic in the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Rodríguez will join a crowded Mariners outfield that features another highly-regarded young hitter – 22-year-old Jarred Kelenic, who had 14 homers as a rookie in 2021. The M’s also have All-Stars Mitch Haniger and Jesse Winker, who are likely to split time between the outfield and designated hitter, and veteran Billy Hamilton is in consideration for a roster spot as a late-innings replacement, both for his defense and speed on the bases.

It is expected that Rodríguez will share center field duties with Kelenic to begin the season.

The Mariners have been sending signals throughout the offseason that Rodríguez could be a part of the team come opening day.

Why the Mariners are giving Rodríguez a long look in CF

“The thing that is the most exciting about Julio – we put challenges in front of him and he knocks them down,” Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said shortly after the MLB lockout ended in March. “And my guess is over these next few weeks he’s going knock us down again. He always has.”

Based on the performance of the young phenom in Arizona, who had already shown this spring that he could maintain his impressive speed even while growing another inch to 6 foot 4, another challenge has been passed.

Rodríguez will be one of at least two rookies who have yet to make their MLB debut on the opening day roster for Seattle, joining starting pitcher Matt Brash, who was announced as the fifth member of the rotation Saturday.

Jerry Dipoto: How Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic is evolving his game

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He’s here — Julio Rodríguez makes Mariners opening day roster