Servais: Cal Raleigh’s Mariners breakthrough not limited to his hitting

Jun 29, 2022, 9:20 AM
Mariners Cal Raleigh...
Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh is congratulated after hitting a home run Monday against the Orioles. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

One pleasant recent development for the Mariners during their up and down 2022 season has been rookie catcher Cal Raleigh, who has been enjoying his best month at the plate in the majors so far.

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Entering Tuesday, the switch-hitting Raleigh was enjoying a .257/.358/.600 slash line with six home runs, 11 RBIs and 10 walks to 18 strikeouts over 22 games. That’s great news for both him and the Mariners, as his start to the season was a struggle. In nine games in April, he slashed just .083/.214/.208, going just 2 for 24 at the plate with four walks to nine strikeouts before a short stint with Triple-A Tacoma.

Raleigh’s power this season especially stands out – with his 10th homer of the year on Monday, he moved into a tie for fourth-most homers by a catcher this season – but it’s not just what he’s doing with the bat that is valuable to the Mariners.

On Tuesday’s Scott Servais Show on Seattle Sports with the Mariners manager, Servais said Raleigh has become an invaluable part of the team because of his catching ability and baseball acumen.

“He’s taken a ton of ownership in what’s going on with our pitching staff, and that’s a great sign when you see that of a young catcher,” said Servais, a former MLB catcher himself. “Cal’s really smart, he makes good adjustments, he’s a creative game caller – he understands there’s times you have to go against the gameplan based on what the other team’s telling you. … Does a good job with his receiving, stealing all the extra strikes he can get. His throwing has been pretty consistent. He checks all the boxes back there.”

Up until a rough outing Monday for rookie pitcher George Kirby, the Mariners’ rotation had been on a roll that was actually historic – Seattle had a string of 24 straight games where the starter allowed no more than three earned runs, which is a new franchise record and the longest streak in MLB this year, just beating 23 straight by the Red Sox. Servais credits Raleigh for being a part of that.

“The biggest thing that I’ve noticed from his defensive side is his ownership in it. He’s much more vocal in our pre-series meetings, talking about the opposition, talking about our own pitchers, what he can do to help them, what we need to do as a group to help them along, and it’s paying dividends for us,” Servais said. “I think our pitching has been outstanding for the last two or three weeks. I know George Kirby stubbed his toe a little bit (Monday) night, (the Orioles) were on him, but for the most part we’ve been very consistent. Our pitching is what’s allowed us to stay in this thing and be competitive as our offense is trying to catch up, and Cal plays a big role in that.”

With such a baseball-ready name like Cal Raleigh, it should be no surprise that he comes from a baseball family. His dad, Todd Raleigh, who was head coach at Western Carolina University from 2000-07 and Tennessee from 2007-11, while his uncle, Matt Raleigh, played and managed in the minor leagues. Servais said you can tell with Cal that he has a rich background in the game.

“He’s been around baseball his whole life. His dad was a college coach so that means Cal was around the team. Probably as a 10, 11, 12 year old, you start hearing conversations and you’re watching catchers and how guys throw bullpens and how the game should be played. It certainly helps.”

That explains why he has an ease in communicating with pitchers, especially Logan Gilbert, who he came up through the Mariners’ system with.

“Cal’s personality’s not gonna bowl you over. He’s not an in-your-face type of guy,” Servais said. “He wants to build relationships with guys before he starts challenging them, and the guys he has the longest relationships with, like Logan Gilbert, he’ll go right at Logan, which is great to see. You need to have that as a catcher and as a leader. I really like the steps he’s taken, hopefully he continues to move forward. Doesn’t (even) speak to what he’s done offensively. Really, credit to him, he has made some big-time adjustments and it’s paid off for him.”

The Scott Servais Show airs at 2 p.m. every Tuesday to lead off The Dugout, a weekly show dedicated to Mariners interviews and analysis that takes place during the final hour of Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy. Mariners insider Shannon Drayer joins Michael Bumpus and Stacy Rost for the show. Listen to this week’s edition at the link here or in the podcast below.

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