Mariners OF Check-In: Winker’s new stance, latest on Lewis and Kelenic

Jul 15, 2022, 12:08 AM
Mariners Jesse Winker...
Mariners LF Jesse Winker rounds the bases after hitting a home run against Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The return of Jesse Winker to the Mariners’ lineup on Wednesday came with a new wrinkle.

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After having some downtime due to a six-game suspension for his role in the June 26 brawl with the Los Angeles Angels, when Winker stepped back into the batter’s box he displayed a different stance. Rather than leaning back and holding his bat almost straight up and down, he opened up his stance a little, stood more upright and held his bat more horizontal over his shoulder.

In general, the new stance looks more relaxed, and it immediately paid dividends with Winker driving a home run in each game of Seattle’s doubleheader sweep over the Washington Nationals.

Count the Mariners general manager as a fan of the new stance.

“You see some differences in his swing right now, in his setup,” Jerry Dipoto said Thursday on his weekly conversation with Mike Salk on Seattle Sports. “He’s always got a great approach and is excellent in his pitch selection, but his swing looks so much easier than it did in the early season.”

Winker has been trending in the right direction for a bit now after a disappointing first couple months to his Mariners tenure. Over his last 15 games, he has hit .296 with three home runs, a .377 on-base percentage and .519 slugging. That adds up to an .896 OPS, much closer to what the Mariners want to see from a player they traded for in March coming off two straight seasons with an OPS over .930.

“He has been for the last month or so,” Dipoto said about Winker getting going at the plate. “And sans his suspension, he was hot… from somewhere in early June until we sit here today. We did start to see the real Jesse Winker.”

Here are a few more notes on Mariners outfielders from The Jerry Dipoto Show.

Kyle Lewis gearing up to play in the field upon his return

The 2020 American League Rookie of the Year is on his second minor league rehab assignment of the year, and this time things are a little different. With the Mariners on an impressive run of success and with more depth offensively than when Lewis came back for a short stint following his recovery from knee surgery, the focus is now on him playing outfield instead of just serving as a DH as he works his way back from a concussion.

“My favorite part of what has happened is that he’s posting,” said Dipoto, referring to Lewis continuing to be available during his rehab assignment first with Single-A Everett and now with Triple-A Tacoma. “He played left field on Tuesday, he came back and he DH’d (Wednesday), and that’s the big key.”

Dipoto is excited by the prospect of Lewis rejoining the Mariners in something of a rotational role on offense for the second half.

“It’s just such a wonderful fit now with Jesse, with Carlos (Santana), with Ty (France), and hopefully in the not-too-distant future Mitch (Haniger) back out on the field,” he said. “It’s just so pivotal that (Lewis) play defense, and he did it. During his first rehab, Kyle didn’t play a lot of defense. In the brief time he was active again on the the major league roster, he didn’t play defense at all. And at that time, we could absorb the idea of a DH who was going to play a couple times a week.

“Kyle wants to be an everyday player and he has impact, everyday skill. Right now with the formation of our roster, especially after the acquisition of Carlos Santana, the only way that type of playing time is available (for Lewis) is if we mix in some defensive days.”

Jarred Kelenic update

Kelenic, one of the prized young players the Mariners are building around, has been with Triple-A Tacoma for 43 games now this season. Since the Mariners’ depth in a good spot and improving, he doesn’t seem to be in the conversation right now to come back to the big leagues. Not that there needs to be a rush – Kelenic is plenty young still, with his 23rd birthday coming on Saturday.

Dipoto said Kelenic continues to make positive strides with Tacoma, as evidenced by him being named PCL Player of the Week on Monday.

“He is hitting the ball hard, he’s hitting the ball out of the park, and as is always the case, he’s playing with intensity,” Dipoto said.

Kelenic is hitting .301 with a .965 OPS, 11 homers and 31 total hits for extra bases with Tacoma after going 3 for 4 with a double, a walk and an RBI Thursday night against Oklahoma City.

“He’s doing all the right things,” Dipoto said. “I could not be happier with the way he has accepted some of the challenges we’ve put in front of him, and he’s performing.”

You can listen to this week’s full edition of The Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below. The Jerry Dipoto Show airs at 8:30 a.m. live every Thursday on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM, and the Seattle Sports app as a segment during The Mike Salk Show.

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Mariners OF Check-In: Winker’s new stance, latest on Lewis and Kelenic