Scott Servais: Crawford’s return to Mariners, Kirby’s debut, Kelenic’s approach

May 10, 2022, 2:44 PM
Mariners J.P. Crawford...
J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners reacts after hitting a three-run home run against the Texas Rangers. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Mariners will look to get back in the win column after a tough 9-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday, and as has been the case for Seattle for a few weeks now, the Mariners struggled to get anything going offensively in that game.

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Julio Rodríguez accounted for three of Seattle’s four hits on the evening, and the M’s were shutout for a league-leading fifth time this year.

“Obviously the Phillies took it to us last night,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Tuesday afternoon during his weekly conversation with Seattle Sports Station’s Jake and Stacy and Mariners insider Shannon Drayer. “They’ve got a really good hitting ballclub and we need to start getting that offense going and match them a little bit on the offensive side.”

Here’s a look at a few things touched on by the manager during this week’s Scott Servais Show.

J.P. Crawford’s return

One thing that could help the Mariners’ offense get back on track is the return of shortstop J.P. Crawford.

Crawford has been excellent in 2022, slashing .340/.435/.546 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. He also is tied for seventh in MLB in WAR at 1.7. He’s been out of the lineup since he was removed from Saturday’s game with back spasms, however.

Servais said that Crawford will be back in the lineup Tuesday evening against his former team – Crawford was traded to the Mariners after the 2018 season, with Jean Segura, who homered for the Phillies on Monday, the main player going to Philadelphia in the deal.

“Yeah, I’m excited,” Servais said about Crawford’s return. “He’s such a pivotal part to our team offensively, defensively, in the clubhouse, the whole thing, and he loves playing every day. And certainly playing against his old team with the Phillies in town, he wants to get back out there, so he’ll be in the lineup today. He’s ready to go. … It’ll be huge for us tonight.”

George Kirby’s Mariners debut

It’s been a tough stretch for the Mariners, who have lost 11 of their last 13 games, but Sunday was definitely a bright spot.

Not only did Seattle come back for an extra-innings win over the Tampa Bay Rays to avoid a four-game sweep, but the game saw the MLB debut of top pitching prospect George Kirby, who Servais said was “awesome.”

Kirby allowed just four hits over six scoreless innings while striking out seven and walking none. Kirby’s seven strikeouts were tied for the second-most of any Mariners starting pitcher in their MLB debut. Additionally, Kirby’s Game Score of 71 was the highest of any Mariners starting pitcher in their debut.

“George was fantastic. Exceeded any expectations anybody could have for any pitcher making their debut,” Servais said of the 2019 first-round pick.

So what made Kirby’s start so impressive?

“It was a really good fastball. He had really good command,” Servais said. “He got behind in the count on a few hitters, but I think we quickly saw what separates George Kirby is his ability to make adjustments really quickly and get back in the strike zone, and that’s what he did. And he’s gifted. He’s got a great fastball, his slider and curveball have really come along, and his changeup might be his best secondary pitch. So he’s got all the weapons and he throws a ton of strikes.”

Kirby was also “as cool as they come” during his debut, Servais said.

“Most pitchers are a little bit edgy, nervous. It certainly didn’t look like it when he took the mound,” Servais said. “He was in total control, which is a great sign for a young pitcher. So off to a great start.”

Kirby’s next start is Saturday against the Mets in his home state of New York. That series begins Friday with Marco Gonzales on the mound, and following Kirby will be Robbie Ray on Sunday in a slight rotation shakeup.

“That’s the way it’s lined up right now,” Servais said.

Ray, who is scheduled to start Tuesday night, will stay on regular rest due to a day off Thursday for Seattle.

Jarred Kelenic’s adjustments

Simply put, the start of the 2022 season hasn’t been kind to young outfielder Jarred Kelenic, who also had his share of struggles as a rookie in 2021.

After some bench days with the left-handed hitter sitting against lefty pitchers plus some adjustments at the plate, Kelenic has seen some better results over his last few games.

It started last Friday when Kelenic came up off the bench to hit a go-ahead, two-run home run to right-center field.

Kelenic started the next three games for Seattle and picked up hits in two of those starts.

Servais said that Kelenic has “been working” really hard to get going at the plate.

“It’s been a grind for him early here in his major league career. It has not been easy,” he said. “You want to see some of your work pay off once in a while. And he did, so we need to see more of that. Obviously, it’s in there. There’s no question it’s in there.”

Servais said the young outfielder’s focus needs to be on staying consistent with his approach and not being “pull happy,” especially when he takes his swings during batting practice. That will allow him to stay on pitchers more.

“He’s also made some nice adjustments in a two-strike approach that he’s adapted to, and it’s going to be really valuable,” Servais said. “I think that’s what the best hitters in the game do. They’re able to make adjustments. And the more playing time he gets, he’ll get more comfortable making them and hopefully the results come.”

The Scott Servais Show airs live at 1 p.m. each Tuesday during The Dugout, a weekly Mariners-focused show during the final hour of Jake and Stacy. You can listen to the most recent edition at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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Scott Servais: Crawford’s return to Mariners, Kirby’s debut, Kelenic’s approach