Dipoto: Red-hot Julio Rodríguez made subtle adjustment

Aug 24, 2023, 11:14 AM | Updated: 12:46 pm

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners singles against the White Sox on Aug. 23, 2023. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Coming into August, the second MLB season for Seattle Mariners star Julio Rodríguez wasn’t living up to the standard he set as a rookie.

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Rodríguez entered the month with a .251/.315/.423 slash line for a .738 OPS with 17 home runs, far below his marks from 2022 (.284/.345/.509, .853 OPS, 28 homers).

This month, however, Julio has looked not so much like the Rookie of the Year-winning version of himself but perhaps something even better. Through 19 games in August, he has a .405/.448/.640 slash for a 1.088 OPS with four homers, nine doubles, 13 runs and 23 RBIs. And along the way, he broke one MLB record with 17 hits in a four-game span, and tied another with four straight games with at least four hits.

“Oh my gosh, it was phenomenal to watch,” Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said Thursday during his weekly Seattle Sports show of Rodríguez’s record-breaking stretch.

Dipoto was sure to provide perspective on what it says that Rodríguez’s season entering August had seemed disappointing, as well as how impressive it makes his recent hot streak.

“We’ve been waiting for Julio to really bust out this year, and I say that and it’s almost comical that we look at his season coming into the All-Star break (like that),” Dipoto said. “He’s an elite defender in center field, an elite base runner, and he was having a slightly above-average offensive season with a lot of athletic traits – you know, the stolen bases were piling up, etc. And then he just took it to a different level. He took the elite-elite and added another elite to it. So this is what Julio is capable of, and it’s why the expectations are always so high.

“Sometimes, like I’ve said, we need to temper them because he is 22 and you’re gonna go through growing pains, but that’s sure not the way it’s looked for the last four or five weeks, and especially on this road trip. I’ve had a chance to play with MVPs and Hall of Famers, and we’ve had a lot of great players come through, and I don’t know too many of them that can change games the way he changed games for about a week straight where it was just unbelievable to watch. He was hotter than the sun.”

Julio’s subtle but important adjustment

It may not be obvious, but Dipoto pointed to a small tweak to Rodríguez’s approach at the plate that came just before he caught fire.

“From an adjustment standpoint, a physical adjustment standpoint, he has made a pretty notable adjustment. You know, he’s not sinking into his legs as much as he did for most of the first half of the season,” he said. “It’s probably not easily discernible for people who don’t watch it closely every day. Our hitting coaches do a phenomenal job of staying on top of it. … It might have been actually immediately after the All-Star break, but (Mariners hitting coach) Jarret DeHart working on not getting into his legs so much – you know, that sink down, bounce up kind of look. He got a little bit taller in the box, he got a little bit more athletic in the box, and I think you’re seeing the benefit. His bat is in the zone longer, he’s not in and out, he can cover all kinds of pitches, and as importantly he’s swinging at the right pitches.”

The result: Rodríguez’s numbers for 2023 now look a lot closer to his rookie output. In 122 games, he owns a .277/.337/.461 slash for a .798 OPS with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and 34 stolen bases, the latter two of which are already career-high marks.

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. Listen to this week’s edition at this link or in the podcast player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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Video: John Smoltz on how good the Seattle Mariners’ pitching is
Passan: Mariners should lock up Cal Raleigh next, but it won’t be easy
Passan: Mariners’ Julio currently ‘as good as a baseball player can be’
Drayer: How the Seattle Mariners turned into the AL’s hottest team

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Dipoto: Red-hot Julio Rodríguez made subtle adjustment