BROCK AND SALK

Josh Rojas’ surprise April maybe wasn’t so surprising to Seattle Mariners

May 2, 2024, 11:53 AM | Updated: 11:53 am

Seattle Mariners Josh Rojas...

Josh Rojas of the Seattle Mariners reacts after a single against Atlanta on April 29, 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are sitting in first place in the American League West as they head out for their first road trip of May, and there are a few reasons they’ve been able to go 17-14 so far this season.

Most of those reasons are on the pitching side, but if there’s one player who deserves credit for his bat, it’s Josh Rojas.

Seattle Mariners Takeaways: Stellar pitching leads, offense finding a way

The 29-year-old third baseman just put together one of his better months as a big leaguer, as he currently leads Seattle’s regular players with a .313 batting average, .403 on-base percentage and .925 OPS in 24 games. He came up big again in the Mariners’ successful 4-2 homestand, hitting a leadoff home run in not just one but two games last weekend against the team that traded him to Seattle last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Of the three players the M’s acquired in the trade that sent high-leverage reliever Paul Sewald to Arizona last year, it’s fair to say Rojas initially received the least attention. At the time, he was hitting just .228 with no home runs in 59 games for the D-backs. But he had been a solid contributor for them in previous seasons, and according to Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith, the M’s were always keen on Rojas being part of any deal with Arizona for Sewald.

Watch: Breakout Mariners player gets revenge against his old team

“When the Mariners made that trade with Arizona, Rojas held the deal up,” Goldsmith told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Wednesday. “That deal could have been executed, from what I’ve been told, significantly sooner had the Diamondbacks been willing to give up Rojas earlier. The Mariners were bullish – ‘We’re not making this deal – we want (Dominic) Canzone, we want (prospect Ryan) Bliss, but we also want Rojas, and if he’s not in the deal, the deal won’t happen.’ And the Diamondbacks finally gave in and included Rojas.”

Why were the Mariners keyed in on Rojas?

“The Mariners love his makeup, they love his presence in the clubhouse, they love the person and they love the player,” Goldsmith said. “He’s just been a steady player by and large over the course of his career, (and) with versatility.”

Goldsmith said Rojas has shown a different side of himself this season compared to when he first joined the M’s.

“You know, Rojas has really opened up this year compared to when he came over last year. Like, he’s a different guy,” he said. “You saw the emotion he had after those two leadoff home runs that he bookended the Arizona series with. Now, I’ll chalk some of that up to he’s playing his former team, right? It’s the Rojas revenge tour, so it does feel different, I’d have to imagine, when you do that against the club that traded you roughly six months ago … The couple of balls he hit against Arizona, I don’t think you can hit a ball better than that.”

With the Mariners’ offense scuffling out of the gate – their 111 runs scored so far are tied for 26th out of the 30 MLB teams – the production from Rojas has been important. That’s been especially true with shortstop J.P. Crawford currently on the injured list, which has led to Seattle starting the lefty-hitting Rojas in the leadoff spot in the batting order against right-handed pitchers.

“They’ve needed him,” Goldsmith said. “They’ve needed him immensely, and thank goodness he’s been able to fill the void at the top of the order against righties, and his production has been noticeable given the struggles by some others.”

Hear the full Brock and Salk conversation with Seattle Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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