Who is José Caballero, the Mariners rookie earning time at 2B?

Apr 27, 2023, 1:22 PM

Seattle Mariners José Caballero...

José Caballero of the Mariners celebrates his first MLB hit on April 19, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

There’s a new name for the Seattle Mariners who showed up on the roster about two weeks ago, and not only has he stuck around longer than maybe people thought, but he keeps finding his way into the lineup.

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The player is rookie infielder José Caballero, who was called up on April 15. It seemed possible that he would receive a ticket back to Triple-A Tacoma when utility player Sam Haggerty returned from the seven-day concussion injured list a week later, but the 26-year-old Caballero had done enough to earn a longer look at the big leagues, and that has continued in the games since.

Though Cabellero has just three hits in 17 at-bats, he’s proven to be capable of battling at the plate and has made a good amount of solid contact while also playing well in the field. With starting second baseman Kolten Wong struggling both offensively and defensively early on, and Wong’s expected platoon partner at second base, Dylan Moore, still out due to injury, Caballero has impressed while getting starts at second base against left-handed pitching.

“He’s not afraid,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said Thursday during his weekly show on Seattle Sports.

Who is Seattle Mariners rookie José Caballero?

Caballero came to the Mariners during the 2019 season in a one-for-one trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who received veteran starting pitcher Mike Leake in the deal. He was an infielder in Single-A at the time, and he had intriguing numbers as a high-contact hitter, speedy baserunner and versatile defender. Between three teams in the minors in 2019, he stole 33 bases on 45 attempts and posted a .272/.375/.385 slash line for a .760 OPS.

So why was Caballero under the radar before his call up to the Mariners?

“We acquired him as an A-ball shortstop at that time with the Diamondbacks, and almost immediately he was hit in the hand and broke a hamate,” Dipoto said. “In the time since, every season that ‘Cabbie’ has been with the Mariners has included some type of weird injury that has cost him a fair bit of time. … When we got to spring training, this was the first year that we had Cabbie in big league camp, and truly the first year that Cabbie has come in healthy.”

When he’s been on the field, the Mariners have liked what they’ve seen.

“Since joining the Mariners (organization), he’s been a good performer,” Dipoto said.

Caballero played in the World Baseball Classic last month for his native Panama, going 3 for 13 with a double, a walk and a stolen base in four games. Dipoto said Caballero showed some of the same things in the WBC that is endearing him to Mariners fans now.

“You could see when he was playing in the WBC that the moment doesn’t bother him. He has a competitive edge to him… Really happy for Cabbie to get the opportunity, and it has been fun to watch him play. He sticks his nose in and he fights.”

Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk, who was on the other side of the conversation with Dipoto, agrees.

“He’s got a little attitude to him… He’s kinda fun. He seems like someone who could become a little cult hero if he keeps it up,” Salk said.

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. Find podcasts of each edition at this link, and listen to this week’s show in the player below.


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Who is José Caballero, the Mariners rookie earning time at 2B?