SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez determined to be even better in 3rd year

Feb 21, 2024, 9:13 AM | Updated: Feb 22, 2024, 12:48 pm

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates a hit against the Dodgers in 2023. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

By the numbers, Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez very well may have had the best sophomore slump in the history of baseball.

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An All-Star nod, a Silver Slugger Award, and a fourth-place finish in the American League MVP voting after posting a .275/.333/.485 slash for an .818 OPS, and yes, it was a slump. Julio said as much to reporters Tuesday in Peoria, and make no mistake, it was not false humility.

“I wasn’t happy with it,” he said. “I feel like a lot of people are going to say, ‘Oh, he was fourth in MVP. He did this, he did that. How can you not be happy?’ Well, I feel like there were a lot of moments I should have done better, like I could have done better. I know my ability.”

The numbers added up but the majority of his damage was done in a spectacular run from late July through August. But then there was June with a .621 OPS, a September of .773, and the not exactly blistering start to the season. His first half wRC+ just 103. Second half, 156.

There were missed opportunities with the inconsistency, and while he did not outwardly show it at the time, there is no question he felt it.

“I know what I want for myself and I know a lot of people can say, ‘Oh, he’s done this, he’s done that.’ But with respect to all of you guys and everybody that watches me, everybody that supports me, none of you guys would want me to be successful for this team like I want to be successful for this team, because I’m the one that is out there working, putting myself through a lot of things that you guys don’t see and you will never see because I will not show you.”

Julio has always been coy about his work and his goals, but there is little question about his drive. One can look no further than his contract and the incentives and escalators that were written in at his request – not to kick in at benchmark plate appearances as most are, rather with the game’s top awards. He sets the bar high, and now a little older at 23 and with two years of big league experience behind him, he is perhaps better equipped to meet that bar.

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“I know I’ve been kind of a little bit through it,” he said. “I know things that work for me, things that didn’t work for me. I feel like being able to take those things away and kind of like see how to clean it up and see how to keep getting better. I had a lot of learning experience last year that I’m grateful for. I was able to learn. I know it’s going help me out down the road in my career, and that’s something that I’m not going to take for granted. And that’s something that I will never forget. That is always going to keep pushing me to keep getting better and never feel that way.”

What Julio Rodríguez thinks of new-look Seattle Mariners

As he pushes to get better, the team around him could be on a similar path. Julio likes the additions that were made by the Mariners and appreciates that he and many of his teammates were kept in the loop about the offseason plans.

“It was really good,” he said of the offseason communication with the Mariners. “You know, it seems like they care about what we thought and they care about how we’re viewing things. They make sure that we’re clear about the whys. Things were happening. I feel like that’s something that any player would appreciate from the team, obviously.”

Julio is bullish on the Mariners’ pitching – the starters in particular, who he believes are not getting enough national attention. Then there is the new-look lineup, one he believes will be able to produce more consistently.

“I feel like we’re a team that can grind down any pitcher,” he said. “We can fight off any pitcher and we can go up against anybody. You’re going to have somebody that can pass the baton, take that walk and just kind of like keep the line moving. I feel like that this is a lineup that’s going to be tough to face because top to bottom you’re going to have those relentless hitters out there.”

Does he feel it is enough to to end the season atop the American League West? Julio, who had been expansive on all topics in the interview, offered few words but unmistakable confidence with his final answer.

“We feel good.”

More on the Mariners

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Mariners Notebook: What’s next for George Kirby?
Why Mariners’ latest addition is worth keeping an eye on
Could Mariners still add Matt Chapman to ‘complete’ their roster?
Seattle Mariners’ Bryce Miller ready for adjustments to pay off in second season

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