ESPN’s Passan: Mariners ‘in for a long season’ if Julio stays at this pace

May 2, 2023, 12:13 PM

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodriguez...

Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners reacts after grounding into a force out to end the game on April 18, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners enter the month of May in a much different spot than they were hoping.

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Seattle is 12-16 after the first month of the 2023 season and rank last in MLB in batting average, 26th in OPS and 21st in runs scored.

There are a number of issues at play, such as the Mariners’ well-documented woes when it comes to the designated hitter spot, but ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan pointed out a different key reason he thinks the M’s are struggling so mightily at the plate so far.

“I think a big part of that is Julio (Rodríguez) hasn’t really shown up much this year. And he was supposed to be the tone-setter,” Passan told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday. “He was supposed to be the guy putting up Jarred Kelenic’s numbers.”

Kelenic, another former top Mariners prospect, finally appears to have found his footing at the MLB level. He enters Tuesday with a .308/.366/.615 slash line for a .982 OPS and seven home runs.

Rodríguez, meanwhile, is slashing .239/.301/.442 (.743 OPS) and has struck out 34 times in 27 games played.

“With Julio not being who we expected him to be – and I know who he expected himself to be – the tone is a little bit different because as Julio goes, so go the M’s,” Passan said. “He hasn’t been terrible by any means, but if this is who he’s going to be this year, if he’s not the dynamic Julio Rodríguez of 2022, the Mariners, I think, are going to be in for a long season.”

So why hasn’t Rodríguez gotten off to a better start this season after such an electric rookie year in 2022?

“I just look back at last April and remember that Julio Rodríguez was on the cusp of demotion at that point,” Passan said. “So I’m not going to sit here and be panicky. This is going to be my ‘It’s baseball,’ and even stars are entitled to down months. But that down month needs to stop.

“I don’t know if it’s something with his swing, I don’t know what the the cause of this is. But I think everybody who looks at the Mariners, as frustrating as the DH has been and as problematic as the DH has been, all of them if they’re being honest would would be able to acknowledge that if the Mariners are a playoff team again, Julio Rodriguez needs to be better.”

Listen to the full interview with Passan at this link or in the player below.

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ESPN’s Passan: Mariners ‘in for a long season’ if Julio stays at this pace