BROCK AND SALK

Mariners’ Dipoto: Suárez returning to 3B, Julio update, Kelenic’s role

Sep 29, 2022, 10:27 AM | Updated: 11:06 am
Mariners Julio Rodriguez, Eugenio Suarez...
Eugenio Suarez reacts with Julio Rodriguez after the Mariners walked off the Toronto Blue Jays on July 8, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners got a much-needed 3-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night, lowering their magic number to three. The good news doesn’t stop there, however.

State of the Mariners: Where things stand with magic number at 3

During his weekly visit with Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto shared some promising news Thursday morning on the injury front with two of the team’s biggest bats, as well as what a superstar’s return means for a young player who has played very well of late.

Good Vibes at 3B

Eugenio Suárez returned to the Mariners on Tuesday after a 10-day stint on the injured list due to a fracture in his right index finger.

Suárez struck out three times in his return to action, but he picked up three hits, an RBI and a walk on Wednesday, providing a big boost to Seattle’s lineup.

Suárez’s first two games back were at designated hitter, so when could we see him return to the field at third base?

“Today,” Dipoto said Thursday morning. “I think he’s gonna play third base tonight.”

That’s a potentially big impact for the Mariners as Suárez has played very well at third base this season, and his return to the position would allow Ty France and Carlos Santana to play at either first base or DH instead of France playing the hot corner like he has in recent games.

Getting Suárez back in the lineup and the field is very big for the Mariners, Dipoto said.

“He’s such a big part of our team, and not just the productivity on the field but the emotion that drives our team,” Dipoto said. “Having him back was terrific, and having him back at third base is going to be awesome for our team in regard to what it means for the next eight or nine days and then heading into the postseason.”

Not only is Suárez a productive player for Seattle, he’s showing how tough he is, Dipoto said.

“What he dealt with, it’s small, but really painful,” Dipoto said. “To watch how quickly he came back and able to swing the bat pain-free, and (he) has insisted for a couple of days now that he’s good throwing, our people see that, our doctors are on board with it, so I think he’s going to play defense tonight.”

Julio on track for quick return

Not only did Suárez go down recently, but so too did All-Star rookie Julio Rodríguez.

Rodríguez missed three games near the start of the Mariners’ last road trip with a lower back injury, but returned the following series in Oakland. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old center fielder had to be removed from the series finale against the A’s in the first inning when his back tightened up on him. He was placed on the 10-day IL the following day, meaning the soonest Rodríguez can return to the Mariners is in next Monday’s series opener with Detroit.

How is Rodríguez feeling a week into this IL stint?

“We calmed it down. I think he’s in a good place. He reports feeling better every day,” Dipoto said. “He’s going to start some baseball activity today. That’ll be the first time since he came out of the game in Oakland.”

Dipoto called putting Rodríguez on the IL a “conservative move” that Rodríguez “was on board with.”

“We just wanted to take the 10 days and make sure that we got this right,” Dipoto said. “I think he’s comfortable with where he is right now. We’ll see where this trends over the course of the weekend but we feel like it is running on course. He’s eligible to come off the IL on Monday, and right now we’re loosely hoping that that’s the case.”

Rodríguez has never had back issues prior to these last few weeks, Dipoto said, so the experience was a little “shocking” to the rookie as he’s only ever dealt with hand and wrist injuries since becoming a pro.

“Our general take on it was that primarily it was something that was happening in his upper glute, and it was just throwing some residual pain or irritation into his lower back,” Dipoto said. “And again, I think through treatment and rehab process, we’ve gotten it where it needs to be. We don’t have long-term concerns, and we’re not going to put him back out on the field until our short-term concerns are eradicated.”

What’s next for Kelenic?

With Rodríguez out, the Mariners have relied on former top prospect Jarred Kelenic to hold down center field.

Not only has the 23 year old done well out there, he’s looked a lot better at the plate in his third MLB stint this year.

In six games since his recent promotion from Triple-A Tacoma, Kelenic has slashed .273/.360/.546 (.906 OPS) with four extra-base hits including a home run with three walks to four strikeouts.

“I would say that this version of JK – and this is praise for what he’s done – is the best version that we’ve seen,” Dipoto said. “This is a week running – we’ve not seen it over the course of time. But his final month in Tacoma we started seeing some real signal that he was doing a lot of the things that we had hoped he would do. It’s all about pitch selection, it’s all about approach. It’s not just about hammering the fastball, it’s which fastballs you swing at.”

Dipoto thinks the Mariners have seen “real maturation” with Kelenic, which was a big reason why he was promoted last week.

“The fact that he brings energy every day we thought could really inject something at a needed time into this team with the injuries to Geno and to Julio and Cal (Raleigh) at the time,” he said. “But more importantly, over the course of that four-week stretch, Jarred was doing a lot of things in Triple-A that that we think represented, ‘Alright, he is showing us that he’s ready for this next opportunity.’ And I think he’s looked great since he’s been back. His at-bats have been terrific.”

So when Rodríguez returns as soon as next Monday, what does that mean for Kelenic? Can Dipoto see Kelenic still having a notable role in manager Scott Servais’ lineup?

“Sure I can. A lot of it is going to be based on lineup construction,” he said. “I think you’ll see Mitch (Haniger) out there (in right field), and it’s good to see him over the last couple of games finding his way on base and getting it going a little bit. We do envision Julio back next week, which is an exciting thing for a team that really has been driven by his energy for a lot of the year. And Jarred is showing that he deserves that opportunity. How that balances out with Jesse Winker, with Sam Haggerty, with Dylan Moore is going to be up to the Scott’s creativity in lineup building. But I do think there’s a chance that that’s a possibility.”

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

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