Mariners’ Kelenic talks demotion, emotional decisions, seeing Rodríguez succeed

Jul 1, 2022, 11:56 AM | Updated: 12:19 pm
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Jarred Kelenic of the Mariners looks up as he runs to first base against the Angels on Sept. 26, 2021. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

While Jarred Kelenic’s overall rookie season wasn’t pretty from a numbers standpoint, his strong finish to the year had many picking the young Mariners outfielder to be a breakout candidate for the 2022 season.

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But after slashing just .140/.219/.291 in 30 games after making the opening day roster, Kelenic found himself in Triple-A, where he’s remained since the middle of May.

Mike Salk of Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Mike Salk Show went to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma to talk to Kelenic about a number of things related to his demotion, namely where his head is at as he works to rejoin the Mariners.

Initial reaction to demotion

What did Kelenic first think about when he heard from the Mariners he was being sent to Triple-A?

“I’d say I was just determined to kind of get my swing in line,” Kelenic said. “But also just get down here and focus on my process. And that was big for me coming down here to help this team win ballgames and continually be the player that I am and remind myself of the player that I am. And again, like I said, just focus on the process.”

How did Kelenic approach this most recent demotion to Triple-A?

“When they sent me down, I mean, obviously you never want to come down,” he said. “But when I came down, I kind of looked at it as I can breathe and I can focus on my process and I can find the type of hitter that I am again and just play my game. Then when they call me back up, I’ll be ready to go.”

Too many voices and emotional decisions

Kelenic said it’s “definitely hard” to be in Tacoma when he wants to be contributing to the Mariners’ success, but he thinks that being with the Rainiers is a good thing for him right now.

“To find success, find the type of player that I am,” he said. “I don’t have any voices in my ear anymore (so I can) just focus on who Jarred Kelenic is each and every night and focus on the process. (The rest) is just going to take take care of itself.”

Kelenic said the type of player he is is someone who can “affect the game in any aspect.” He told Salk he knows he can maintain that at the big league level, but in his first stints with the Mariners, he felt he was getting too much information at times, which had a negative impact on his game.

“Obviously when you’re struggling you want to do better, so you’re trying to find any little thing to grab on to,” Kelenic said. “For me, sometimes less is more whether it’s swings, whether it’s information I’m getting on the pitcher. So when I came down here, we have just about the same information that we do in the big leagues, and you kind of understand what you really need and what you don’t. So for me, it’s understanding what I need on a nightly basis down here, and that’s again part of the process that’s allowed me to have my success.”

Having so much information led Kelenic to making what he called “emotional decisions.”

“A lot of stuff is thrown at you quick when you go to the big leagues, and you have a lot of voices in your head,” he said. “Things can speed up on you and you make emotional decisions. And (being in Tacoma) has allowed me to kind of slow it down instead of making an emotional decision, just focusing on the process and doing my own thing.”

Kelenic hit .140 for the Mariners and stressed that “that’s just not who I am.” He made it clear he needs to not make emotional decisions at the plate.

“There’s a lot of times when I was up there where the game was speeding up, and I was making emotional swing decisions, and it was causing me to chase a lot,” he said, adding later, “I think sometimes you get too much information and it makes your mind spin. You can’t just focus on being at the plate and being present with what you’re trying to do and how the pitcher is trying to attack you.”

Tinkering at the plate

Kelenic made a number of adjustments at the plate in his approach as well as his stance throughout the start of his big league career with the Mariners. Salk asked Kelenic if he’s always been “a tinkerer” at the dish.

“No, I haven’t. I think that’s a little bit of people being in my head and in my ear, I guess,” Kelenic said.

Kelenic gave a lot of praise to Tacoma’s coaching staff in helping him get his mind right.

“They really helped me and just let me do my thing and let me figure it out,” he said. “I think that’s the only way that you can really find confidence in things is when it comes from you and not from anybody else. I really appreciate the coaching staff down here in Tacoma. They’ve allowed me to do that.”

Seeing Julio succeed

While Kelenic is in his third stint with Tacoma, fellow former Mariners top prospect Julio Rodríguez has made an immediate impact for the Mariners and is already among the team’s best players and is making a legitimate case not just to be named AL Rookie of the Year, but make the All-Star Game.

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Salk asked Kelenic if it’s hard to watch the success Rodríguez is having while he’s still in Tacoma.

“I think the easiest answer is no because Julio is a dear friend of mine outside of baseball. He’s just a great individual and he’s a tremendous baseball player, obviously,” Kelenic said. “I think what Julio is doing right now is strictly because he’s focusing on Julio and what gets Julio right. I think that’s what’s leading to his success. He’s doing it consistently, and I think that that’s what you’re seeing.”

Kelenic said that what Rodriguez is doing at the MLB level is what Kelenic is focusing on doing in Tacoma.

“So that when I go back, I can be right there with him,” Kelenic said. “… Right now, it’s a tough time. But two, three years, four years from now, nobody’s gonna remember that I got sent down to Tacoma for two months or whatever it is.”

Listen to Salk’s full interview with Kelenic at this link or in the player below.

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