Drayer’s Mariners Observations: 3 things from big day in Mesa

Mar 1, 2023, 4:03 PM
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Julio Rodríguez hits a solo home run for the Mariners in a spring training against the Cubs on March 1, 2023. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

A quick check in from cold and windy Mesa, Ariz., with an update on Wednesday morning’s Mariners notebook. There was indeed plenty to watch look for.

Mariners’ Servais: How depth beyond MLB roster is shining for Seattle

Let’s go back through some things I mentioned before Wednesday’s game and follow up with what happened against the Cubs, a contest that had plenty of positive moments for Seattle even though Chicago won 5-3.

New Mariners 1-2 punch?

From Wednesday morning: (Julio) Rodríguez and (Jarred) Kelenic at 1-2, dare to dream. As I have said multiple times on the radio, far too soon on Kelenic – the real answers will come when he faces pitchers in-season – but what we have seen in Peoria is encouraging.

The dream lives. Again, this is spring training and the real answers with Kelenic will come in the regular season, but man, watching Julio and Kelenic batting 1-2 in the lineup, how can you not dare to dream just a little bit with back-to-back home runs against former Mariners pitcher Roenis Elías in the fifth inning?

Watch videos of Julio and Kelenic’s back-to-back homers here

It was Rodríguez’s first home run of the spring, the third for Kelenic. And while it is good to see the results, even better to see the process, according to Mariners manager Scott Servais after the game.

“I thought Kelenic again swung the bat really well,” he said. “The approach is really good. He’s very calm. It doesn’t look like he gets ticked off every time he gets his pitch and fouls it back or maybe he gets a bad call against him. Things he doesn’t let get in the way of finishing off the at-bat or turning the next at-bat into a positive. Really good signs. His swing’s in a good spot right now, he’s in a really good spot mentally as well.”

Ray’s big day

• On the hill Wednesday, we get our second look at Robbie Ray this spring. It will be interesting to see if the 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner throws his new splitter more.

In his first outing of the spring, Ray threw the new splitter just once as catcher Tom Murphy planned to call it only if the situation warranted in an appearance where he would get just two innings. Wednesday, Murphy got the opportunity to call the pitch more.

“I threw everything,” said Ray. “The four-seam was really good, threw some really good splitters and my slider was as good as it’s ever been. Pretty happy with everything.”

Ray admitted that he is still getting accustomed to when to throw the splitter as he hasn’t had a pitch like that in the past. Since it looks like a pitch he will be able to take into the season, he will get with the coaches and catchers to figure out when to use it. It’s a pitch he’s excited to pair with his slider that was particularly good against Chicago.

“Today I felt like I could have thrown it in any count and it was a swing and miss,” he said. “My slider is getting more depth than it has in years past so those two pitches, if I can play them off each other going to opposite sides of the plate, that’s going to be really good.”

Ray struck out five, all in a row, in his three innings and hit 95 mph with the fastball multiple times in the first inning. That is velocity he did not have early on last season. An encouraging sign.

Leave on a good note

With Team Italy playing its games in Taiwan, (Matt) Festa will leave for the World Baseball Classic on Thursday.

Festa threw a 1-2-3 fifth inning, striking out one for the Mariners. His reward? A 15-hour flight Thursday.

Up next: Logan Gilbert’s spring debut Thursday as the Mariners host the Padres back in Peoria.

Julio Rodríguez on 2023 Mariners: “I don’t want to set limits for any of us”

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