The 4 players Mariners need to step up to get their season going

Apr 12, 2024, 11:16 AM | Updated: 5:26 pm

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez looks on from the dugout on April 9 in Toronto. (Kevin Sousa/Getty Images)

(Kevin Sousa/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners have not been playing up to their potential through the first two weeks of the 2024 MLB season, and there is a silver lining to that.

The Mariners are on pace to make MLB history — and not in a good way

“As I’ve said a few times, they’ve really played bad, but they didn’t lose that many games despite how bad they played,” Mike Salk said of the 5-8 Mariners during Friday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports. “They’ve managed to win enough here and there to kind of keep themselves alive.”

Thanks to a dramatic 6-1 win Wednesday over the Blue Jays in Toronto where the Mariners scored five runs in the 10th inning, Seattle is only two games back in the American League West of the leading Texas Rangers, who are 7-6. And the M’s aren’t in last place, either. That distinction goes to the Houston Astros, who are off to a 4-10 start.

“The Mariners aren’t 4-10,” Salk continued. “… You’ve kind of managed to survive this godawful start where you’ve played terrible baseball enough so that if you can get your guys turned around and just playing to the back of their baseball card, you haven’t blown the season in the first two weeks. You’ve not taken advantage of an opportunity, certainly, to put some distance between you and Texas and Houston. You’ve not successfully taken advantage of what was in front of, but you haven’t buried yourself yet, which is great news.”

Let’s go back to something Salk said there: “If you can get your guys turned around and just playing to the back of their baseball card.”

That’s something that would certainly help the Mariners get their season going. But who are the players that need to start doing that?

Salk has four in mind: center fielder Julio Rodríguez (.471 OPS, 18 strikeouts), starting pitcher Luis Castillo (6.89 ERA, 1.85 WHIP), second baseman Jorge Polanco (.488 OPS, 19 strikeouts) and designated hitter Mitch Garver (.475 OPS, 12 strikeouts).

“If you want to point to four guys that they need significantly more from than they’ve got, those would be my four,” Salk said. “I mean, Julio’s your superstar. He’s been not one of your best hitters to start. He’s been in your bottom few. You need Julio to be Julio. Do I think it will happen? Yes.

“Castillo’s the ace of your staff. You need him to pitch, at the very least, like a good pitcher, and he’s not done that. In three starts, he doesn’t have a quality start. That goes back then to September (2023) where he struggled a little bit there. You need Luis Castillo to be Luis Castillo or this team’s not going to be what it’s supposed to be. Flat out, plain and simple, you need Luis Castillo. So those two guys are gonna be front and center.”

The other half of the quartet are new to the team. Polanco was a big trade acquisition from the Twins during the offseason, which came about a month after the M’s signed Garver, Polanco’s former teammate in Minnesota, to a two-year deal in free agency.

“Like everybody else, they’ve got to find a way to adjust and adapt to being in this ballpark,” Salk said, “and playing for this team and understanding what all of that means, getting through the struggles that everybody seems to have as soon as they get here. But they went out and got Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver because those guys are contributors.”

Extra sense of urgency for Seattle Mariners

Slow starts in the first few months of the season have been a regular occurrence in recent years for the Mariners, and they are obvious things to point to when it comes to then falling just short of the playoffs as they did in both 2021 and 2023. That has perhaps added pressure for the Mariners and their key players to kick into gear in the early part of this season.

“In theory there are a lot of good things ahead of this team, and thankfully they haven’t cost themselves dearly yet, but time runs out quick,” Salk said. “It goes from early to late in a hurry, and so I love the sense of urgency that they had in that last game in Toronto. I hope that’s a message to the team and I hope it carries over to (Friday night against the Cubs) and into the rest of this homestand, because they need to start winning some games at some point. They need to start showing they are the team they were built to be on paper.”

Salk on Mariners: What ‘it’s early’ does and doesn’t mean

The Seattle Mariners open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs and a six-game homestand at 6:40 p.m. Friday at T-Mobile Park. As with all M’s games, Mariners Radio Network coverage will be carried on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the Seattle Sports app and beginning with the pregame show roughly an hour before first pitch (5:30 p.m. in Friday’s case). For details on how to stream Mariners Radio Network broadcasts from Seattle Sports, click here.

Hear the full segment from Friday’s Brock and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Mariners

Drayer’s Notebook: Will dramatic win in Toronto give M’s a jump?
Beef Continues: Cal Raleigh burns Blue Jays manager after big HR
Why ESPN’s Passan is ‘not there yet’ on panicking about Mariners
What Servais said about slow starts for Mariners, Julio and Castillo
Seattle Mariners Roster Moves: Seven players involved in flurry

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The 4 players Mariners need to step up to get their season going