Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez talks HR, proving people wrong about his speed

May 2, 2022, 3:54 PM | Updated: 4:13 pm
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Mariners CF Julio Rodríguez rounds third base after his first MLB home run Sunday against the Marlins. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Nobody on the Seattle Mariners had a bigger weekend than rookie Julio Rodríguez.

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First, he stole his ninth base of the season on Friday, and not only did that make him a perfect 9 for 9 on stolen bases, but he’s also in the MLB lead in the category. Then on Sunday, Rodríguez got into a pitch for a 450-foot moonshot, which was his first big league home run.

“It was great,” Rodríguez said Monday when he joined Seattle Sports Station’s Jake and Stacy. “It was a really cool moment.”

The homer was just the latest proof of the strides the No. 2 overall prospect per Baseball America is making not even a month into his Mariners career. After registering just two hits in his first five games, the 21-year-old center fielder has hit .286 over the 15 games since, and he’s been even better over the past seven – .320/.393/.480 slash line for an .873 OPS.

“Everything I’ve been working for, it’s finally coming along,” he said. “There was, like, a lot of questionable things in the beginning but now I feel like I’m more able to get into my groove. I feel like everything is coming along together better.”

The questionable things would be several called third strikes on pitches outside of the strike zone, an issue that kept coming up so much that the Mariners actually sent a letter to MLB about it and manager Scott Servais got himself tossed from a game last week arguing on Rodríguez’s behalf. All the while, Rodríguez has continued to stay true to his eye at the plate instead of expanding the zone.

“They just told me to stick to myself and keep being who I am because in the long run, it’s gonna be more beneficial to myself,” he said of the Mariners’ coaching staff. “… As you guys can see, like now, things are turning around a little better and I feel like they’re trending in the right direction.”

The Mariners’ new speed demon

Rodríguez possesses a rare combination of power and speed, as evidenced by this incredible stat brought to light by Mariners baseball information coordinator Alex Mayer:

The power was expected, but the speed was not.

Asked if his size had anything to do with people not expecting the 6-foot-4 Rodríguez to be as fast as he is, he had to answer with a chuckle.

“Big time. Big time they did,” he said.

Needless to say, Rodríguez is as proud of his speed as any of his talents.

“It feels really good to me because I didn’t let any of that get to me. I just kept on working and believing in myself… and now they see that they got it wrong.”

His steals aren’t just the result of blazing quickness, though. Rodríguez has worked a lot on the nuances of stealing bases.

“I wanted to give the opposing team a lot of things to handle. … It feels really good that once I get on the basepaths, they gotta be aware of that. I’m gonna take the next base for the team. … There are a lot of things that I’ve worked on this offseason that they came along – not just this offseason but I feel like the past two, three of them. It’s been a lot of focus on how to position myself or how to take off, too.”

The good vibes

Coming up through the Mariners’ system, Rodríguez was always known for his big smile and upbeat attitude. But is there somebody else in Seattle’s clubhouse who’s maybe even more cheerful?

“Definitely Eugenio Suárez,” Rodríguez said, pointing to the All-Star third baseman Seattle acquired in a spring training trade. “I feel like you can never be sad around that guy. He’s just such an incredible guy, honestly. I always tell him every time, ‘Bro, I cannot be even mad about you, like around you or anything. Like, if I ever felt mad, I just look at your face and then I just get happy.'”

You can hear the full interview with Rodríguez in the audio player below, the video player towards the top of this post, or in the podcast at this link.

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