Brock & Salk: The most important developments from Mariners’ opener

Mar 31, 2023, 1:30 PM | Updated: 1:40 pm

Mariners Jarred Kelenic...

Jarred Kelenic of the Seattle Mariners steals second base against the Cleveland Guardians on March 30, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners kicked off a highly-anticipated 2023 season in a big way, beating the Cleveland Guardians, a playoff team in 2022, 3-0 in Seattle in front of a sellout crowd at T-Mobile Park.

Fann: 6 takeaways from Mariners’ thrilling opening day win over Cleveland

During the Friday edition of Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports, Mike Salk listed the three most important things that happened for the Mariners on opening day, and his co-host, Brock Huard, chimed in as well.

Ty France looks like Ty France

Mariners first baseman Ty France was an All-Star last season after a red-hot first half of the season, but due to multiple injuries to his wrist and elbow, he slowed down mightily in the second half of the season.

He was one of the biggest starts for Seattle on Thursday, though, going 3-for-4 with a single, double and three-run home run in the eighth inning, which was all the offense the Mariners needed.

“Not just the home run, but Ty France going 3-for-4 in that game,” Salk said.

After the game, manager Scott Servais said France looked like he does when he’s at his best, using the entire field. The single was to left field, the double was to center and the home run cleared the wall in right field.

“Oftentimes, he kind of makes it look easy, and I don’t know how he does it. But he’s not in a hurry to hit, he’s not trying to pull the ball, he’s just trying to barrel it up and wherever it goes, it goes. It’s hard to hit a ball out of here to the opposite field, especially with as cold as it was tonight when the wind gets blowing in there,” Servais said. “And off the bat, I definitely thought it had a chance and it goes over the Microsoft sign and we’re all smiling. We needed a big hit and we had the right guy up there and he came through.”

Huard noted that the Mariners needed a big hit all game long, and France was ultimately the one to deliver.

“(The Mariners were) 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position before that blast,” he said. “… Ty France’s swing, as you look at a lot of these guys in the league now and especially with the pitch clock, they just get locked in … And Ty’s kind of like a softball guy to me. Like he moves around, and is loose in there.”

Salk noted the wrist issue lingered last year but didn’t look like an issue on Thursday.

“The fact that it doesn’t appear to have continued into this season, I think, is very important,” he said.

Jarred Kelenic impresses

After two rocky seasons to begin his big league career, Jarred Kelenic is back with the Mariners and started in left field on opening day.

Kelenic had a monster spring training and was open about making adjustments to his swing and approach this offseason.

Drayer: No chasing numbers — Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic commits to his swing

Salk thought Kelenic’s entire night at the plate was extremely important for the young outfielder and for the Mariners.

“From start to finish, I thought he had a wonderful first game. Three really good, high-quality at-bats,” he said.

Kelenic struck out in his first at-bat, but it was on a painted 3-2 breaking ball from 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber.

“Second time up, he laces a single to right field between first and second. It’s an out last year with the shift, but he hit it really hard, hard enough to get through,” Salk said. “Good at-bat and he steals a base (afterwards).”

And while he didn’t get on base in his third at-bat of the night, Salk thought that plate appearance was Kelenic’s best of the evening.

“I thought it was a really good at-bat against a tough reliever,” he said. “He’s battling and he steps out, calls timeout, recollects himself, gets back into the box and ends up drilling a line drive that unfortunately went right to the center fielder. But he hit it (103.5 mph) off the bat. That’s fine. That’s a really good at-bat and he’s rewarded with a 1-for-3 night with a stolen base. That’s huge for his confidence.”

Added Huard, “Yep, and to look up at the board today, and he’s hitting .333? Let’s go.”

Luis Castillo dominates

France was the star on offense on Thursday, and Luis Castillo was the star on the mound, and really, of the game.

In his first opening day start with the Mariners, Castillo tossed six scoreless innings and allowed only one hit while striking out six and not walking a batter. He also retired the last 12 batters he faced.

“There’s a bunch of different parts to it, but I just thought Luis Castillo yesterday was phenomenal,” Salk said. “And if there were stories and rumors and stats to back it up that he struggles early in his season, we heard from Scott that they made him a partner. That they went to him and said, ‘Hey, alright, you signed this big deal, that’s cool, but you’re a partner now and we’re gonna need you to come do this and you’re part of the partnership.’ He was ready to go, man. I don’t know what else you would possibly want to see from Luis Castillo. He was lights out yesterday.”

Huard thinks Castillo showed once again he’s a big-moment pitcher.

“He is one that there’s no question plays to the 45,000 (fans) there,” he said. “When there have been little moments and lapses (like) in Oakland (last year), ‘Come on. This is a bad Oakland team. How are you gonna give up four runs in an inning to that Oakland team?’ Well, there’s 300 people in the stands. I think he’s one – and we saw that in every big stage, when the lights were the brightest, when the moment was the biggest – he’s a guy that actually feeds off of that adrenaline and feeds off of that juice because his heartbeat doesn’t go up, but he just plays right to it, man.”

And his electric fastball is something that still wows Huard every five days.

“It’s that one that just defies gravity, right? That cuts through at 95 (mph) and rises up and (former Mariners catcher) Mike Zunino can just watch and go ‘I’ve got no shot at that’ and the majority of the league has no shot at,” he said.

Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player below.

‘One of the best in the game’: Luis Castillo dazzles for Mariners on opening day

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