Mariners Notebook: J.P. update; Servais on Julio’s approach

Jun 21, 2023, 3:21 PM

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Seattle Mariners CF Julio Rodríguez swings against Miami on June 12, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Second-year Seattle Mariners star Julio Rodríguez is still trying to get on a run similar to when he was a 2022 American League All-Star and won last season’s AL Rookie of the Year award.

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Rodríguez has a slash line of .240/.299/.422 for a .721 OPS in 2023, and in his last 15 games he’s scuffled to a .222/.269/.349 slash for a .618 OPS. At the same time, he’s not seeing many pitches, as his 3.6 pitches per plate appearances ranks 150th out of 160 qualified batters in MLB this year.

Swinging at pitches early in the count isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but is it in this case?

“I think there’s times he could benefit (from seeing more pitches), and I’ve talked to him about it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said when asked prior to Wednesday’s game against the Yankees if Rodríguez is swinging at too many first pitches. “I just think he’s such a talented player, it’s OK to hit with one strike, it’s OK to hit with two strikes. And I think the more times you see a particular release point, the break on the breaking ball, or what the two-seamer is doing out of his hand, the more times you see it, the more success you’re going to have. So I think it would benefit him a little bit. It’s OK to hit with one strike.”

Servais also sees opposing teams pitching Rodríguez in a way that he’s yet to fully adjust to.

“How (opponents) are attacking him inside the strike zone, outside the strike zone, they’re paying attention,” he said. “Like you do all guys that are good players, you’re trying to get them conscious (of the) inside (pitch). They are throwing some balls inside and that opens up the outside corner. It’s really hard to cover both. I think that’s what you’re seeing happen on a really consistent basis. When they make mistakes, Julio’s ready to hit, he’s usually on it. But when they’re executing, his ability to stay off those pitches early in counts will allow him to get into better counts, see more pitches and hopefully get a few more mistakes.”

The trick is for Rodríguez to find a balance between an aggressive mentality at the plate that has paid off for him before and benefiting from seeing more pitches, which Servais said comes with experience, something the 22-year-old center fielder still doesn’t have much of at the MLB level.

“I do think there are times, understanding the game, a particular pitcher, what his out pitch is, different things like that (where) taking a strike 1 is not the worst thing in the world. Now, there’s some guys, you don’t want to (take the first pitch) – they’re gonna come right after you and that might be the best pitch to hit. But it changes based on your game plan, based on what that pitcher has to offer.

“If it’s a particular bullpen guy that has just one nasty, wipeout pitch that he continues to go to, take a look at it. It might be something after you’ve seen it two or three times, now you’re in a better position to hit it. I don’t ever want to take players’ aggression away from them, that’s what makes them good – certainly what makes Julio special. But there are times, seeing another pitch or two may be beneficial. … That’s experience. It really is. And you can say, ‘Oh, he’s in the big leagues, you should be able to do that.’ He’s a really young player – really talented. It just takes experience.”

What is J.P. Crawford’s status?

The Mariners’ starting shortstop and usual leadoff hitter is out of the lineup for Wednesday’s game a day after he left a loss to the Yankees with a right shoulder injury. Servais said that Crawford is day to day and that the hope is he won’t require a stint on the injured list.

“He’s sore today. I think it is a contusion, bruise, whatever you want to call it there,” Servais said. “I don’t think there’s anything else structurally wrong.”

The Mariners take on New York at Yankee Stadium at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday in the second game of a three-game series. Coverage is carried on Seattle Sports, the flagship station of the Mariners Radio Network. For details on how to stream Seattle Sports broadcasts of M’s games, click here.

Here is Seattle’s lineup for the Wednesday night game:

“Cabby” takes over

Taking Crawford’s spot both in the field and in the lineup is rookie José Caballero, who has been Seattle’s primary second baseman as of late. Though he’s typically hit in the bottom-third of the Mariners’ order, Servais said he’s the best fit to hit leadoff after Crawford.

“He finds a way to get on base, and if you’re in the leadoff spot, that’s what you got to do,” Servais said. “Get on base, set the table – he’s really good at that. He has competitive at-bats.”

Caballero made news Tuesday when his usual routine with the pitch clock seemed to draw the ire of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. After Caballero called a timeout during his third plate appearance, Cole fired a 97 mph fastball to the backstop, presumably sending a message about his distaste for how Caballero uses as much time as he can while at bat under MLB’s pitch clock rules. After Cole struck Caballero out, cameras showed him wagged his finger in the direction of Servais, who reportedly had been doing the same from the Mariners’ dugout.

Servais declined to say anything about the situation when asked Wednesday, instead providing a stock comment about hoping Mariners starting pitcher Luis Castillo could pitch deep into that night’s contest.

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Mariners Notebook: J.P. update; Servais on Julio’s approach