BROCK AND SALK

Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez details where his focus is for 2024

Feb 29, 2024, 10:17 AM

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates after a win on Aug. 27, 2023. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

It was a busy offseason for star Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez, who put in a ton of work on his game and also got to do some pretty cool things outside of baseball, such as attending this year’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas.

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Would he ever want to watch the World Series in person?

“Nah, I want to play. I want to play in the World Series,” Rodríguez told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk during an exclusive sitdown interview Thursday from Mariners spring training (watch here). “I don’t want to go watch the World Series.”

Rodríguez’s spring training has gotten off to a slower start as some hand soreness has limited what he’s been able to do. He has yet to play in a spring training game, though that’s expected to change this weekend.

Rodríguez explained why the injury occurred, and said that it’s not a big deal.

“Yeah, it’s actually good. Like Scott (Servais) was saying earlier, I just swung a lot. I swung a lot this offseason,” he said. “I used some different (bat) knobs here because my other bats were not here yet, like my training bats, and that kind of affected it a little bit more and it kind of like flared up … because I didn’t have my training bats here, the ones that I’m used to swinging. So it just kind of like flared up a little bit but it’s nothing that I was worried about to begin with. When we saw the doctor and everything, he said, ‘OK, you’re good, you just need to dial it back a little bit and just let it recover.'”

Julio Rodríguez learned a lot with Seattle Mariners in ’23

Rodríguez was a top prospect before debuting on opening day of 2022, and after a slow start that April he took off, making the All-Star Game, winning Rookie of the Year honors and finishing seventh in MVP voting while leading the Mariners to their first playoff berth since 2001.

In 2023, though, it was a bit up and down for the young superstar as he had a slower start to the year before a hot finish due to a very good July and a ridiculous month of August. He wound up fourth in AL MVP voting.

Rodríguez said he learned a lot last season, especially behind the scenes.

“It was a good learning experience for me. And like I said, too, it’s gonna serve me well for the rest of my career just to be able to know how to prepare, know how to do like a lot of things that maybe held me down a little bit last year,” he said. “I feel like that’s what’s going to like be able to separate me along the road.”

The Mariners hosted the All-Star Game in Seattle last year, and Julio Rodríguez was ultimately named to the American League team even though his first half numbers were not too great. When asked about feeling extra pressure last year in part because of the hometown All-Star Game, Rodríguez brushed that aside.

“I wouldn’t say challenging. I feel like there was just a lot of things that came even before that,” he said. “But that’s just kind of part of the game. You can say pressure or you can say, ‘Oh, he was maybe trying too hard’ or things like that, but I feel like there were other things that can lead to that and not just one moment itself.”

When Mariners manager Scott Servais joined Brock and Salk earlier this week, he noted that Rodríguez was “shrinking his circle” off the field. Rodríguez discussed that and its impact Thursday, and he said that was part of what he learned last season.

“I feel a lot more comfortable now. I feel like I’m definitely like prioritizing my time,” Rodríguez said. “I’m definitely prioritizing my own schedule. I feel like that’s one of the things I can share here is that it definitely was huge for me that I learned that last year. Because at the end of the day, not everybody really is gonna understand that … I’m walking with these shoes and I feel I know what it feels like to be able to have to prioritize myself … (Some people) don’t understand what it feels like to actually focus on your stuff and get ready.”

“I don’t just come out here and just go to the field,” he later said. “I feel like there is a lot of things behind the scenes that you gotta get ready for. You’ve gotta hit your training room, your weight room, you’ve got to go do your cage work. You’ve got to take care of a lot of little things that matter for you, matter for your game, matter for the team, matter for your teammates. A lot of people don’t see that happens behind the scenes.”

Rodríguez also has learned a lot from Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki, who is around the team regularly. Ichiro was a former All-Star and MVP who was an international superstar as the first Japanese-born position player in MLB history.

“He always told me like, ‘The view of people, they can change towards you, but the view of yourself can never change.’ So I feel like that’s something that allows me to say no and like prioritize what I like to do, and what I like to the most is playing this game and be able to do that at the highest level I can,” Rodríguez said.

Sights set high

Rodríguez’s first two MLB seasons have ended in different disappointing ways as the Mariners were swept in the ALDS in 2022 and fell just short of making the playoffs last season.

“There’s more to do. That’s kind of how I feel,” he said. “I feel like that’s not a secret for anybody, or if it’s a secret, I just want to win. That’s just the plain and simple (truth). I want to win and I want to do whatever needs to be done to win. And there is more to do.”

When reflecting on 2022, Rodríguez said simply making the playoffs for the first time in 21 years wasn’t good enough.

“We ended the drought, but I didn’t want to just end the drought, I wanted to win,” he said. “I was in there, we were all in there. So I feel like that’s the only thing that I can think about, that there is more to do until we get to where we want to get. Every single year has been a building block for that. And yeah, a lot of people will say, ‘Oh, you guys fell (short) of the playoffs,’ but there is a lot of growing to losing sometimes.”

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Seattle Mariners Notebook: Prospect debut, latest on Julio
• Mitch Garver: What makes each of Mariners’ 5 SPs stand out
• Raleigh: Mariners hitters ‘want to start pulling our end of the bargain’
• How offseason for Mariners’ Ty France looked at Driveline
• Mariners’ Logan Gilbert details how his pitches could look different

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