BROCK AND SALK
Servais: How Mariners are helping Julio handle superstar spotlight
It didn’t take long for Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez to establish himself as one of the best players in baseball.
Who’s most important on the Mariners besides Julio Rodríguez?
Even with a tough first month in his rookie campaign, Rodríguez finished the 2022 season with a .284/.345/.509 slash line for an .853 OPS with 28 home runs and 75 RBIs. He also tied for 15th in MLB in WAR, which helped the now-22 year old win American League Rookie of the Year honors as well as an All-Star nod.
Thanks to that success as well as Rodríguez’s personality and big smile, he’s quickly become one of MLB’s most recognizable and marketable players. He’s on the cover of the Topps baseball card boxes and has made multiple “J-Rod Show” commercials for the company parodying various television genres like cooking, painting and reality dating shows.
That equals a lot of attention for a young player. How can the Mariners help their cornerstone deal with the spotlight in a positive way? Mariners manager Scott Servais addressed that Tuesday.
“How do you help Julio navigate what seems to me to be an incredibly challenging river ahead of him?” Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk asked Servais during Tuesday’s Brock and Salk live from M’s spring training in Arizona.
For Servais, it’s all about regular communication with his young superstar.
“I think when you talk about young players like that and where he’s at in his career, from the seat that I sit in, I just want to touch Julio every day,” Servais said. “It may not be physically touch, but I’m going to talk to him, I’m going to get up close, I’m going to check in, and it’s every day.”
Servais says in a few years he may not need to do that every day with Rodríguez, but for now, he thinks it’s critical.
“I think it’s really important for young players (to tell them), ‘I’ve got my eye on you, make sure we stay on the right path.’ And he’s done a fantastic job,” Servais said. “There have been a lot of things thrown at him. We give him a hard time in the morning meetings about the commercials and what’s going on there – which, they’re great and he’s good at it, and I think he enjoys it and that’s why he’s good at it.”
Servais said one thing he loves about seeing Rodríguez in those commercials is he knows the slugger will be ready to go to work the very next day.
“It’s going to be about, ‘What can I need to do to get better today to make sure that I get off to a better start than I did last year?'” Servais said. “He can still really improve on last year’s season – really improve. Things weren’t going great early, we talked a lot about how he didn’t panic, and it turned around for him. Credit to him. But there are areas of growth for him all over the place, and that’s what excites us most about him, and that’s why we gave him the long-term commitment.”
Listen to the full conversation with Servais in the podcast player below.
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