As Mariners get healthy, what’s in store for France, Kelenic, Santana?

Aug 5, 2022, 9:07 AM
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Jarred Kelenic connects on a two-run home run against the Yankees on Wednesday. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It’s been pointed out many times this Mariners season as they’ve looked toward getting key players back on the field that when projecting how a fully healthy roster will look, these things have a way of figuring themselves out in baseball.

Fann: What the Mariners’ roster will look like at full strength

With that being said, though, the Mariners are on the verge of getting a number of players back who have been dealing with injury. In no particular order, there is Mitch Haniger, Taylor Trammell and Ken Giles, who are all on minor league rehab assignments, plus Julio Rodríguez and Dylan Moore, who could be back next week after short 10-day injured list stints. Additionally, first baseman Ty France should return to the lineup Friday night after spending a couple days out of action to let a wrist ailment calm down.

So say the M’s get some, it not all, of those players back in the new few weeks while the rest of the roster remains intact. What happens then?

Mariners Injuries: When Haniger, France, Julio should return

On Thursday’s edition of The Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports, the M’s general manager and president of baseball operations addressed a few offensive players whose roles could be impacted by the team getting to full strength. Here’s a look at what he had to say, starting with France.

France to second base? Don’t count on it

France has played every position in the infield except for shortstop as a pro, but he’s settled at first base since last season, even playing defense at the position worthy of Gold Glove consideration. But with veteran first baseman Carlos Santana on the roster, there is the intriguing possibility of France playing some second. In fact, he actually had to finish a game at that spot last Saturday after the Mariners got considerably banged up, and he even made a nifty play deep in the hole to end a tense 5-4 win at Houston.

While the potential of France and Santana both playing the field to open up the designated hitter spot would make for a formidable lineup combination, don’t hold your breath on seeing that. Dipoto said it’s a long shot, and the fact that France has dealt with multiple bumps and bruises this year is the biggest reason.

“I don’t think so because partly what we’re dealing with right now with Ty taking the last 3 1/2 games and not playing,” Dipoto said when asked by Mike Salk if France could start games at second. “We want to make sure that we keep Ty’s bat doing the things that his bat does. He’s an excellent first baseman, he’s done a great job for us since he’s taken that role every day.”

Dipoto went into “never say never” mode as he continued his answer, though the overall sentiment was still about as close to “never” as it gets.

“You might see a scenario like we saw in Houston last Saturday night with Ty, but that’s only going to be if it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t think any of us has designs on doing that. Could be that we see a tough left-hander and everybody wants to get creative and magical and Ty thinks it’s a good idea, but he’s been banged up enough this year that the most important thing we can do for Ty is make sure that he is playing as regularly as he can and getting his four or five plate appearances. It’s gonna be a heck of a lot easier (to do that) between first base and DH.”

The veteran impact of Santana

Speaking of Santana, his playing time will likely get eaten into once Haniger returns as Seattle will need to cycle him and Kyle Lewis through the DH spot. Santana would provide the Mariners with a valuable switch-hitting bat off the bench in that scenario, though his biggest impact may be as a veteran presence on Seattle’s young club.

“Carlos is a stud,” Dipoto said. “We acquired (catcher) Curt Casali, we acquired (corner infielder/outfielder) Jake Lamb, we acquired (pitchers) Matt Boyd and Luis Castillo and, you know, we also acquired Carlos Santana shortly before the deadline. And that’s not something that I think anybody should sweep under the rug because while the numbers haven’t been gaudy, the productivity has been incredibly timely. And what he’s done for our clubhouse, for our team community has been off the charts good, and I think any one of the players – and I know (manager) Scott (Servais) and staff – will tell you that that’s the case.”

Santana joined the Mariners in late June, which was just as they were getting going on a 22-3 run that included their 14-game winning streak into the All-Star break. And since Santana’s first game with Seattle on June 28, they have a 23-8 record.

“He’s been huge for us, and we have been the best version of ourselves since the day Carlos arrived,” Dipoto said. “We were for the longest time riding a high, and obviously it’s easy to get down and forget how good it was going because three of our best hitters are sitting on the IL and we’re playing the Astros and the Yankees for what seems like a month straight. But, you know, we can hit. We just happened to face the best pitching staffs in the league for the last 10 days. We’ll bounce back, and my guess is that Carlos will not let the guys drop their heads because he knows better.”

The return of Jarred Kelenic

Kelenic, Seattle’s 23-year-old outfielder who as a former top prospect has high hopes pinned on him, made his first return to the team Sunday since being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma in mid-May. The Mariners needed outfield and offensive help with Rodríguez and Moore hitting the IL and France needing time off, so Kelenic received the call.

“Necessity is the first answer,” Dipoto said when asked about Kelenic’s promotion. “We saw so many guys go down – we knew Ty couldn’t play and Julio was going to the IL. As soon as we saw all the issues beginning on Saturday night in Houston, the first call we made was to JK, and we got him on a plane headed toward Houston.”

Dipoto has said throughout Kelenic’s time in the minors this year that the goal was to wait until he’d made adjustments that would allow to stick at the big league level before calling him back up. He’s made progress in that respect, but he has just one hit in 13 at-bats since rejoining the M’s. The good news, though, is that one hit is a home run off Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.

“Jarred has performed very well since he was sent to Triple-A earlier in the season,” Dipoto said. “We were intent on giving him time to make the necessary adjustments. I was more thrilled than you can imagine when he hit the home run off Gerrit Cole on Wednesday, and those are big moments. It’s Yankee Stadium, Gerrit Cole is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he delivered when the team needed. That has to feel good for him. And this is, I think, all very good and part of Jarred’s growth. And I know for us to continue to succeed as we move into the future, we’re going to need Jarred to contribute in those types of ways, and this was a step in the right direction.”

You can listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show from Thursday morning at this link or in the podcast player below.

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As Mariners get healthy, what’s in store for France, Kelenic, Santana?