SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners Notebook: Jarred Kelenic displays new approach with 2-HR day

Feb 26, 2023, 4:11 PM

Mariners Jarred Kelenic...

Jarred Kelenic hits a home run for the Mariners against the Kansas City Royals. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Spring training baseball is not regular season baseball, and of all the players in camp for the Mariners, spring game results mean the least for Jarred Kelenic. It is known what he can do, now he needs to do it consistently at the big league level. You simply won’t know for sure until the games count.

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That said, Kelenic had a heck of a day Sunday in Surprise with two home runs to right-center of 428 and 438 feet, respectively, with exit velocities of 113 and 107 mph. And in his third at-bat, he lined a drive out to center that left the bat at 107 mph.

“I’ve just been focused on staying up the middle,” Kelenic said when he left the game against the Royals, which Kansas City won 8-7 (box score). “Good things happen when you stay up the middle.”

Kelenic shook up his offseason routine this winter, electing to work with coaches in California and Arizona rather than at his home in Wisconsin. He’s looked more comfortable at the plate this spring and solid in his approach. Sunday in Surprise, a new mentality at the plate was on display as well. After appearing to object to a call, he got back into the box quickly. The next pitch he hit out.

“I just asked him if that was the bottom (of the strike zone),” he explained. “And (the umpire) hadn’t said anything so I was waiting for his answer. I just never heard anything. So I just tried to reset because the (pitch clock) timer was already ticking. So I took my time and then got back in the box and won the next pitch.”

Winning the next pitch is a focus that could benefit Kelenic, who often would see at-bats snowball when the count fell out of his favor or he didn’t get a pitch we wanted to have.

“I’m trying to have a mindset of it doesn’t matter what the count is,” he said. “I’m just trying to seriously take one pitch at a time and then trying to flush the rest. It’s helping me with situations like that. So that the thought of having two strikes doesn’t become overwhelming, and (I’m) just trying to win that pitch.”

There’s no question Kelenic loves to see the ball go over the fence, but a ball going over the fence due to a consistent correct process is even more rewarding. A note taker, he was asked what he would write in his notebook about his performance against the Royals.

“I write down that I want to win every pitch today,” he said. “I didn’t really chase. I had a plan coming into the game today and I executed every single pitch.”

Sounds like an A-plus day, but an A-plus day with perspective.

“You know, it’s just one of those days. It’s not going to be like that every day, but it was definitely a day where I had a plan and every single pitch I won.”

Mariners notes

• Right fielder Teoscar Hernández was a late scratch from Sunday’s lineup because of back stiffness. Mariners manager Scott Servais said it was not serious and that he could be back in the lineup as soon as Monday.

• The Mariners are slow playing young starting pitchers George Kirby and Logan Gilbert in spring training, looking to keep their innings down after huge increases to their workloads last year. No word when they will make their 2023 Cactus League debuts but Kirby had his first live batting practice session Sunday morning. He threw two innings, striking out the first and last batters he saw each on three pitches.

• If you have been worried that catcher Cal Raleigh has yet to appear in a Cactus League game, don’t be. The Mariners are taking it slow with him, as well. He is scheduled to catch his first Cactus League game Tuesday when Luis Castillo takes the hill.

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