Dipoto: Mariners didn’t consider promoting Kelenic, unclear when France will return

Jun 30, 2022, 1:47 PM
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Jarred Kelenic of the Seattle Mariners reacts to a strike out against the Chicago White Sox. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

When starting Mariners outfielder Taylor Trammell left Tuesday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles with a right hamstring injury, the question amongst fans and analysts quickly became whether former top prospect Jarred Kelenic would be recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to take Trammell’s roster spot. The answer to that question was no.

Rather than call up Kelenic, the Mariners added outfielder Marcus Wilson and utility man Sam Haggerty from Tacoma and sent infielder Kevin Padlo to Triple-A.

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During his weekly chat with The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto was asked whether there was any thought to bringing Kelenic up to replace Trammell.

“No,” Dipoto quickly responded. “We are committed to solving the the career development of Jarred Kelenic, and I think you’ve heard that in my voice.”

Kelenic, 22, was a 2018 first-round pick of the New York Mets who was traded to the Mariners ahead of the 2019 season. He quickly emerged as one of the top prospects in the Mariners’ farm system and in all of baseball. He made his MLB debut last May at 21 years old, and at the time was a consensus top-five prospect.

But Kelenic hit under .100 in his first taste of big league action, which resulted in a June demotion to Triple-A. He returned in July and still took his lumps, but he hit very well in September. Because of the strong finish, many pegged Kelenic as a breakout candidate for 2022.

That didn’t happen, though, as Kelenic struggled again, slashing .140/.219/.291 in 30 games after making the opening day roster. He was sent down to Tacoma in early-May and he’s been there since.

Dipoto said that a few factors have led to Kelenic’s initial struggles at the MLB level.

“Jarred is an extremely talented player and through no fault of his own with a missed season (in 2020) and frankly, pointing the glass at me or ourselves, was probably a quick trigger on bringing him to the big leagues in the first place before he solved some of the developmental challenges that we want to see him solve this time before we put them in the big leagues,” he said. “What’s happening on the surface his performance right now in AAA has been excellent. He’s working hard, he knows what he needs to focus on, and we’re in no rush to bring him back until we see that happen.”

“If” France returns?

On Wednesday, star Mariners first baseman Ty France joined Mike Salk and gave what appeared to be a promising update on his left elbow injury, saying he was aiming to return to the lineup in the next 10 days.

Mariners’ Ty France aims to return in next 10 days, hoping for All-Star nod

On Thursday, Dipoto, when asked about a recent trade for veteran first baseman Carlos Santana, sounded less optimistic about the severity of France’s injury, which has the All-Star candidate on the 10-day injured list.

“We just don’t know how long Ty’s gonna be out,” Dipoto said. “… And as we go through this and not knowing when Ty will be back, or if Ty will be back, and really having had a difficult time getting productivity out of the DH position, while we go through what has become of just a barrage of injuries to some of our more impactful hitters, Carlos gives us an experienced hitter who’s been on a bit of a bender for the last month.”

We’ll get back to the addition of Santana in a moment, but Dipoto using “if” to describe France’s injury alarmed Salk, who followed up on how serious France’s injury is.

“I don’t really have the skillset to determine how concerned to be. But I do know that he experienced a very real injury,” Dipoto said. “Ty is a very tough player. He’s a tough guy and I know he’s in there working his tail off. And I would suspect that we will see Ty back in the lineup before most guys would get back … But Ty did experience a pretty significant injury.”

Dipoto called the upcoming stretch between Thursday’s series opener against the Oakland Athletics and the All-Star Break, which begins July 18, a “critical one.” That and injuries to a handful of key bats led to the addition of Santana.

“From the seat that I sit in, we are closing in on about halfway through our season. We’re about 5.5 games back of a playoff spot,” Dipoto said. ” … And with no Mitch Haniger, with no Kyle Lewis, with no Ty France, now with no Taylor Trammell, with no Tom Murphy, we felt like we needed to do something. And if Ty comes back and joins us sooner than later, then we get the advantage of doubling down and having the combination of Ty and Carlos Santana between first base and DH. But we really don’t have any timeline on any of those players, truth be told. So adding to our mix was required for us to get through (this stretch).”

As far as Santana goes, Dipoto had plenty of praise for the veteran switch-hitting first baseman.

“Carlos has had a great career … Carlos is one of the best players of his generation in managing the strike zone. He is on base,” Dipoto said. “The overall numbers (for 2022) look pretty average, but at the end of the day for the last month or so, Carlos has been, I think, one of the top five players in Major League Baseball … He’s raised his monthly OPS up to about 1.000 or something thereabouts (right before) joining the Mariners. So all the things that Carlos has always done, he is showing signs that he’s doing again.”

Santana also being a seasoned 13-year MLB veteran is also a major plus, Dipoto said.

“The veteran knowhow, it’s something we haven’t had a ton of as we’ve transitioned from our 2021 group to our 2022 group,” he said. “And now adding guys like Carlos, having Justin Upton on the club bringing in some some veteran experience while we need to get over this bridge, I think is the right thing to do. And getting Carlos in the mix while he’s going hot and see if he can help us out.”

Listen to the latest Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.

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Dipoto: Mariners didn’t consider promoting Kelenic, unclear when France will return