Drayer’s Mariners Notebook: Castillo, Kelenic, 2B and more

May 18, 2023, 3:49 PM | Updated: 3:50 pm

Seattle Mariners Jarred Kelenic Cal Raleigh...

Cal Raleigh of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his two-run home run with Jarrec Kelenic on May 15, 2023. (Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)

(Paul Rutherford/Getty Images)

Rainy Seattle Mariners off day in Atlanta? Time to clean out the recorder.

Below, some notes, quotes, nuggets and stories that either missed the air or ran just once.

Some good, some bad, some silly.

Let’s start with answers to two very popular questions.

Question No. 1: What the heck is going on with Luis Castillo?

Castillo had a disastrous start in Boston, giving up seven runs (five earned) in five innings. This came after failing to record a quality start in his previous four starts.

Seattle Mariners Pitching Updates: Dipoto on Miller, Castillo, prospects

It’s not hard to understand the concern, but I think you have to separate the start at Fenway from the others.

In the previous four starts, Castillo’s undoing wasn’t as costly in terms of runs, rather innings pitched. A bad call here, an error or walk there, followed by the one bad pitch that left the park was more of what we were seeing. In Boston, to some extent that was the case as well with Luis settling down to retire 10 out of 11 after giving up the four runs in the first inning. But still, he was clearly struggling to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. There was little mystery as to why, according to manager Scott Servais the next day.

“Luis’ delivery, which is one of the things that makes him so unique, it’s tough to pick up, the arm slot unconventional. When you have that many moving parts going east to west, your timing has to be perfect,” he pointed out. “When his timing is off a little bit, running east to west, the command is not going to be good. It hasn’t been horrible, but last night they were all in the same range.”

Pair this with a lineup with seven lefties in it that came out with an aggressive approach, something that was not expected, things snowballed quickly for a pitcher who already works at a very quick tempo.

An adjustment needed to be made in the first inning and Castillo, who has been able to do so in the past, just wasn’t able to get there Tuesday night.

“I’m not that worried about it,” said Servais. “This guy is super competitive, he understands where he’s at. He doesn’t go too high or low which is a good sign for a veteran pitcher. I think it’s just a little adjustment then understanding how to make those adjustments maybe a little quicker.”

Question No. 2: Is it time to make a change at second base?

Teams often look at the 40-game mark as the time when you should have a good idea of what your club is. Hitters have been given adequate time to get going and if they are not, alternatives are often looked at.

Without naming names, on his weekly show on Seattle Sports, Jerry Dipoto said those evaluations have been made.

“We do have some individual positions that need to shore up and we are planning on addressing them as best we can, but you are limited to what’s available to you in the market,” he said.

We likely already saw one move. Wednesday night in Boston it was Jose Caballero’s name that was written into the lineup at second base against a right-hander, a spot where Kolten Wong would normally get the start.

Seattle Mariners’ Dipoto: Caballero may play more over Wong ‘in the short-term’

“Cabby’s played really well,” Servais said pregame when asked about the move. “Every time you put him out there, he finds a way to get on base, make a play and certainly he’s been awesome running the bases where he’s super aggressive. We all know what he does. It’s an opportunity to get Cabby in there and we’ll see what happens. He usually provides something at some point in the game. We’ll see what he brings tonight.”

Caballero, who is hitting .298/.393/.362 (.755 OPS), turned out to be one of the only bright spots in the Mariners’ 12-3 loss to the Red Sox, reaching base three times and driving in a run.

With Dipoto telling Brock and Salk we will likely see more of Caballero against right-handers as they look to give Wong a breather and chance to “reset and get his season started in the way he’s accustomed to playing,” it would appear Caballero has a good opportunity in front of him.

Fenway futility

Things looked pretty good for the Mariners after George Kirby and Cal Raleigh led Seattle to a 10-1 win over the Red Sox in Game 1. Could they possibly be on their way to their first series win in Boston since 2014?

Yeah, no. The streak continues. The Mariners have not won a series at Fenway Park since 2014 when they swept the Red Sox in three games.

It was quite the series. Game 1, down 3-0, the Mariners scored five runs in the 9th inning off Koji Uehara to get the win. Game 2 featured a seven-run fourth inning powered by a Dustin Ackley home run. Game 3 was a more back and forth affair with Ackley again coming up big with a double and triple.

Since then, the Mariners are 7-19 in games in Boston.

Happy Jarred?

Yep, that’s his nickname in the clubhouse. We will get to that in a minute. This week, he hasn’t been particularly happy at the plate.

“The last week my swing hasn’t felt exactly where I have wanted to be, but the good thing is I know I am one swing away,” Kelenic said. “There’s no worry.”

Kelenic, who could be seen in Detroit early one afternoon on a FaceTime call on his phone demonstrating his setup while pacing in front of the visitor’s dugout, has recently found himself pulling off offspeed pitches.

In early work, he has been focused on working on a different target to get his body into the best position to swing and stay through the ball. The small adjustment is a work in progress, but he has managed to stay somewhat productive in his struggle. Part of that is mindset.

“If there is anything I have done a really good job of it is the days where my swing doesn’t feel locked in,” he said. “All I am trying to do is compete, just in my mind feel that the guy on the mound is not better than me and just try to beat him,” he said.

That is a controllable, as is the approach.

“Totally,” he agreed. “I have been trying to stay middle (or) the other way, that’s going to give you the best chance, especially when your swing is not 100 percent where you want it to be, but then also try to hunt pitches in the heart of the strike zone. Not chasing, but still staying aggressive at the same time. You don’t want to get passive.”

As for “Happy Jarred,” well, it has become a thing. You often hear it from teammates after games. Another offseason adjustment manifesting itself in season.

“Positivity is my biggest thing this year,” he said. “Yeah, frustration will set in when you don’t execute, don’t get the guy in, that’s human nature. But when it’s all said and done, it’s always about trying to stay positive because there’s so much negativity in this game, it will chew you up and spit you out, so I have been doing everything I possibly can to stay positive. The guys think it’s funny, so they call me Happy Jarred.”

The broken bats and glowering Jarred in the clubhouse probably aren’t missed, but edge and the intensity surely haven’t taken a backseat to Happy Jarred? Rest assured, that guy is still there.

“Oh yeah, I still when I’m out there think I’m the baddest dude out,” he said quickly.

The silly

Another storybook moment for Cal Raleigh, who became the first catcher in the 112 year-history of Fenway Park to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.

Raleigh is known to have a very disciplined batting practice, but even he admitted to taking his shots at the Green Monster in early batting practice.

“I had to,” he said sheepishly in his pregame interview. “You’re supposed to have a good approach, stay up the middle or right field. Nah, I was just yanking everything, trying to get one over.”

In that interview following Cal’s big game, Gary Hill had an even more important question. If you are a uniform watcher, you will appreciate this. We’ve seen Raleigh with socks up and pants down covering the socks. Why hasn’t he settled on one look, and when and how does he decide which to go with?

“It’s not me making the decision, I usually ask someone else,” he answered. “It started with me asking the pitcher, the pitcher would decide whether I wore my pants up or down. Or if they wore their pants up, I would wear mine up or if they wore them down, I wore ’em down. Then I would go off the cleats, too. If the pitcher wore white cleats then I’ve got to wear white cleats. But now it’s kind of lingered in. Ty(France) told me go pants down yesterday (the two-homer day), I will probably be going pants down again today.”

Well heck, if he’s taking requests, I asked, can we make the call some day?

“Of course,” answered Raleigh. “Not today, though. I’ll be sure to keep you guys in the loop.”

And I will keep you posted.

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Drayer’s Mariners Notebook: Castillo, Kelenic, 2B and more