What They Said: New Mariners OF Luke Raley on his role and more

Jan 14, 2024, 11:07 AM

Seattle Mariners Luke Raley...

Luke Raley of Tampa Bay reacts after a double against the Seattle Mariners on June 30, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Luke Raley was hardly thinking about changing teams when he learned he had been traded to the Seattle Mariners.

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The 29-year-old outfielder and first baseman recently got married, and he was on the final day of his honeymoon playing pool volleyball when the Tampa Bay Rays dealt him to Seattle.

“I get out of the pool to like 10 missed calls and a bunch of text messages,” Raley said on Tuesday’s Mariners Hot Stove on Seattle Sports. “The one that really got me was an email from my agent that only said ‘call me’ and nothing else, so I knew something had happened. I wasn’t sure what yet, so I gave my agent a call, he let me know and then I had to pull my wife out of the pool and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go to the room. I gotta tell you something.'”

The newest Mariners slugger spoke at length to M’s broadcasters Aaron Goldsmith and Gary Hill about joining his new team, noting that he’s already been in contact with two of the team’s main coaches.

One is Brant Brown, Seattle’s new bench coach and offensive coordinator who will have a big role with the team’s hitters. Brown, who was with the Mariners organization as a coach fro 2013-18, rejoined the franchise this offseason after spending last year as the hitting coach of the Miami Marlins. Before that, he was an assistant hitting coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he coached Raley when he made his MLB debut in 2021.

“I’ve talked the most with Brownie just because it’s a familiar voice and I kind of have a relationship with him already,” Raley said. “He kind of broke down the hitting, the offensive side of things and how things are run, just basically like our game planning for the year, obviously, how it’s gonna work, stuff like that.”

Raley has also spoken to manager Scott Servais, who “basically gave me a breakdown” of what his role is going to be.

“It sounds like it’s going to be a great opportunity, and I’m eager to get up there,” he said. “… Essentially a lot of corner outfield. That’s kind of going to be the primary position, but (Servais) said don’t put the first base glove away. If Ty (France) ever needs a break or there’s any kind of bad situation for him or a better situation for me, I can see myself at first a little bit. He even said with Julio (Rodríguez) possibly getting a couple of days off here and there that I could find myself in center field, as well.”

Raley enjoyed the best year of his three-year MLB career last season, slashing .249/.333/.490 (.824 OPS) with 19 home runs, 49 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 118 games for the Rays. Before that, he had posted OPS numbers below .600 in each of his first two seasons.

So what changed last year? Raley pointed to a notable swing change.

“I basically redid my whole swing last offseason, the biggest thing being I had a leg kick and my leg kick was super successful in the minor leagues. But I felt with the increased velocity that you see in the big leagues and the extra movement that pitchers have, it was just too much to maintain,” he said. “I felt like part of the reason I had a leg kick was to produce power, and I didn’t feel like I needed to produce more power. I feel like with a basic swing I can get the ball out of any yard and not have an issue … I think that that definitely played a part in the success.”

Additionally, the 118 MLB games Raley played last year was far more than the 55 he appeared in between 2021 and 2022.

“It’s hard enough to hit big league pitching when you’re seeing it every single day, and it’s really hard to do it when you’re seeing it every third day or maybe a pinch hit every now and then,” he said. “It definitely makes a difference being out there more consistently.”

For Mariners fans unfamiliar with Raley’s game, he described it to Goldsmith and Hill.

“Gritty. I think that’s the best way to describe myself is I will do anything that the team needs me to do to win baseball games,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s getting hit by a pitch, laying down a bunt, stealing a base, laying out in the outfield or running into a wall, I’m gonna do it. I play 110% all the time.”

Listen to Raley’s full interview on the Mariners Hot Stove at this link or in the player near the top of this story. The Hot Stove airs from 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays on Seattle Sports.

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Mariners trade Ray to Giants for Haniger, DeSclafani; get Raley from Rays
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What They Said: New Mariners OF Luke Raley on his role and more