Drayer: With eyes opened, Mariners’ Kelenic set free to return

Sep 11, 2023, 5:36 PM | Updated: 6:10 pm

Seattle Mariners Jarred Kelenic...

Jarred Kelenic of the Seattle Mariners celebrates an RBI single on April 21, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

After 45 games missed, Jarred Kelenic on Monday night is finally set free.

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“I basically was put on a timeout for like the last month and a half, because of something that I did,” the 24-year-old Seattle Mariners outfielder told the assembled media Monday afternoon at T-Mobile Park. “It made me realize something that I did affected not only just me, but affected my teammates, affected the fans, the organization. And that’s just something that I’ll never do again because of how much it hurt inside and makes me realize how lucky I am to be out here and play every single day, as I feel like I took it for granted a little bit there.”

Kelenic is returning from a fractured left foot that he suffered when he kicked a water cooler after striking out to end a July 19 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The realization that he had taken himself away from doing everything he wanted to do since he was a little kid hit hard.

“When you do something stupid like that and kick a cooler and you get put on a timeout, it makes you realize, ‘What are you doing?’ It makes you think a little bit. So for me personally, arguably it could be one of the best things that’s ever happened to me on a baseball field. But obviously, it wasn’t the best thing to happen for the team and the organization of the city.”

The last eight weeks for Kelenic have been about getting himself back out on the field. Early on was the toughest as Kelenic, who thrives on working his way through struggles, was prescribed rest for his fractured foot. Lots of it.

“You can’t heal a bone faster than you’d like. Really, it’s just on its own program, which sucks. You don’t have any control over it,” he said. “I feel like if I’m sitting still, I’m wasting time. I had to accept the fact that me basically laying on my couch all afternoon with my foot up in the air to get the inflammation out, that was me basically working out. It was a different mindset. But honestly, it’s probably a good thing because I’ve never been forced to think that way. I’ve never been forced to take my foot off the gas a little bit, and this allowed me to do that knowing that I was getting better by not doing a whole lot. And it sounds kind of counterintuitive, but you know, I think that’s one of my weak points is that I don’t know how to take my foot off the gas a little bit. So, you know, I try to look at it as a positive and go forward from there.”

There were plenty of positives for Kelenic on Monday afternoon. Mariners teammates and coaches greeted him warmly. There was joking around the batting cages and hugs in the outfield. There was a very noticeable air of lightness around the usually ultra-intense Kelenic. He was thrilled to be back with his team.

“My teammates were extremely supportive throughout the entire process, especially when I found out the news that I was going to be out, which is definitely encouraging because those are your brothers and those are the guys that you’re out there going to war with every single night,” he said. “So when they have your back in a situation like that, that there’s something stupid like that I did, and I caused it, it makes me want to come back faster and be out here with these guys. Because when I was at my low, they have my back.”

As it turns out, they weren’t the only ones. Through the self-inflicted ordeal, Kelenic has found support at turns that surprised him.

“It was crazy,” he said with a smile. “When I was in my rehab games in Tacoma there and I had all these like fans with ‘Welcome back Kelenic’ signs, that was reassuring because I was like, ‘Nobody’s probably even gonna know that I’m here.’ I went out to the field and I saw those signs. I was like, it’s pretty sick, you know. But again, that’s the stuff I talked about where you feel like sometimes you can take that stuff for granted. Definitely it’s an eye opener there.”

With his eyes opened, Kelenic will take the field Monday night in right field as he rejoins the Mariners’ outfield mix. The cooler episode behind him with lessons learned, eyes opened, and appreciation uncovered.

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Drayer: With eyes opened, Mariners’ Kelenic set free to return