Dipoto: Mariners looking for Kelenic to ‘have fun,’ not specific changes in AAA

May 19, 2022, 12:43 PM
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic celebrates scoring a run against the Kansas City Royals. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

After a strong finish to the 2021 season, it appeared that Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic was set to take the next step forward in living up to his status as one of the game’s top prospects.

But after accumulating a .140/.210/.291 slash line with a 37.5% strikeout rate over 30 games, Kelenic finds himself in Triple-A Tacoma.

Drayer: Kelenic’s demotion is best way to get him where Mariners need him to be

So when could Kelenic return to the Mariners? And what is the main goal for Kelenic during his time in the minors? Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto broke it down with Mike Salk on The Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM Thursday morning.

“It’s gonna take time,” Dipoto said. “… It’s gonna be a performance-based thing over time, but it might not be the performance that that the natural observer, the fan in the stands, might pick up on. It’s pitch selection, it’s what you’re swinging at, it’s how you go about your business.”

Dipoto stressed that Kelenic’s work habits are “awesome” and that he’s one of the hardest-working players and most-intense players the Mariners have. While it’s great that Kelenic works hard and wants to be a great player, Dipoto said that the intensity may need to be turned down a tick.

“He practices harder and more intensely than anybody else can, and I guess to some extent would like to see him – and it’s just gonna sound absurd to say – try a little less hard,” Dipoto said.

Kelenic’s final 29 games saw the young outfielder slash .248/.331/.524 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs. But outside of that stretch, Dipoto said, the Mariners have “seen struggles that are all in the same area.”

“Some of it is pitch selection. A lot of it is just easing up and having a little fun playing,” Dipoto said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself, and we thought we could help by just alleviating some of that pressure and giving him an opportunity to go play and just let his skills hang out.”

Something to keep in mind with Kelenic, Dipoto said, is that he’s still just 22 years old.

“He is such a good player. He’s still – and I reminded a few people over the last week – Jarred is still one of the handful of youngest players in the major leagues and he’ll go to Tacoma and play in the PCL where he’s one of the youngest players in the PCL,” Dipoto said. “I think too many people too quickly are writing Jarred off. This is an opportunity for him to go find himself a little bit – and in a little less stressful of an environment to perform. That’s all.”

So what was the overall message to Kelenic from the Mariners when he was demoted to Triple-A?

“Just go have fun playing. The marching orders, so to speak, were no deeper than that,” Dipoto said. “This is not a mechanical thing. This is not a, ‘We need to see improvement in X,Y, Z.’ We just need Jarred to go have a little fun playing. If he does that and his natural ability plays, that’s when we get back to the player that we anticipate that he’ll eventually become.”

And giving Kelenic specific things to work on may not be what’s best for him right now, Dipoto said.

“It’s a double-edged sword. We can give him three things to focus on and that likely starts to ramp up that same intensity again, and then we lose the whole reason for sending him to Tacoma in the first place,” Dipoto said.

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

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