SEATTLE MARINERS

How has Mariners’ Cal Raleigh become a threat from the right side?

May 8, 2024, 11:11 AM

Seattle Mariners Cal Raleigh Houston Astros...

Cal Raleigh of the Seattle Mariners homers in the ninth inning against Houston on May 5, 2024. (Jack Gorman/Getty Images)

(Jack Gorman/Getty Images)

Where would the Seattle Mariners be right now without catcher Cal Raleigh?

Just by factoring in Tuesday night, they’d probably be sitting with one less win than what they currently have in their 20-16 record.

Raleigh delivered one of the biggest hits of the season Tuesday in Minneapolis, working a 3-2 count with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning, then unloading on a pitch from Twins reliever Steven Okert for a majestic, 445-foot grand slam into the upper deck at Target Field. That gave Seattle a 6-4 lead, and the M’s went on to win 10-6.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Raleigh was pinch-hitting? That’s right, it was supposed to be his day off. Well, kinda.

Watch: Raleigh clutches up, blasts first career grand slam

“(Mariners manager) Scott Servais said it before the game, ‘I have a feeling he will be in the game at some point tonight,'” Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports said on the radio postgame show Tuesday night.

Responded Mariners analyst Mike Blowers, who interviewed Raleigh after the game on the ROOT Sports broadcast: “I asked Cal that – ‘Did it feel like a day off?’ He said no.”

Raleigh is right from the right side

Raleigh has been a workhorse for the Mariners over the past three seasons, at times even playing through injury like a thumb issue that he needed to have surgically repaired after the 2022 season. Seattle has tried to keep his workload down, but his value as a bat off the bench on his days “off” became tempting last year, and he still ended up playing 145 of the Mariners’ 162 games as a result. Having appeared in 32 of Seattle’s 36 games so far this year, he’s on pace for playing in 144 games.

On Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Wednesday morning, Mariners reporter Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times indicated that Raleigh is more than OK with the extra amount of playing time. It may also be a key reason that the switch-hitting Raleigh is seeing increased success swinging from the right side of the plate – he has five home runs and a 1.068 OPS in 31 plate appearances as a righty against left-handed pitching this year compared to four homers and a .670 OPS in 93 PAs as a lefty against right-handers. Those five homers from the right side this season are already a career-high.

Divish said that with backup catcher Tom Murphy going to San Francisco in free agency and the Mariners bringing in Seby Zavala as his replacement, Raleigh knew he would see more time against left-handers this season, and it’s something he took seriously.

“When they didn’t bring back Murf and they saw what Zavala was, they just basically went to Cal and said, ‘Look, you’re gonna play a lot more,’ which he loved,” Divish told Brock Huard and guest host Mike Lefko. “They were like, ‘We’re not going to platoon it. You’re gonna play against left-handed pitching. We believe you can hit right-handed, so, you know, go to work.’ So this spring, if you noticed, he played in almost every game that there was a left-handed starter, especially late when he knew he could face left-handed pitching.”

What’s changed for Raleigh as a right-handed hitter?

“Really what it was I think more than anything is the pitch recognition from the right side – you know, understanding what pitches you really drive well and looking for those kinds of pitches,” Divish said.

Cal gives Seattle Mariners pinch-hit power

Not only is Raleigh enjoying an increased amount of success swinging from the right side (very similarly to Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who famously became a much more dangerous hitter against lefties during his age 27 season, which is Raleigh’s age now), but he’s already written his name in the Mariners record book in a surprising category. His grand slam on Tuesday was his fourth career pinch-hit homer, which tied Ken Phelps for the team record.

Drayer and Blowers discussed Raleigh’s “off” day routine that may help him when he enters in those late-game moments.

“To his credit, when we got into the clubhouse (Tuesday) – what time did it open, 3:15? – he was sitting relaxed at his locker, just talking with the guys,” Drayer said. “He did give himself (a break), he didn’t go through the entire routine that he does. … But, you know, he still got the work in that he needed to. I’m sure he stepped into the cage and took a few swings here and there … But even when they were out on the field, they were doing their stretching and whatnot, he was standing with the coaches. He did take a little bit of a step back. He’s figured something out about that.”

Blowers had 73 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter during his 11-year MLB career, so he was curious to know how Raleigh approaches getting ready during a game when he knows he may be asked to come off the bench.

“I asked him tonight, ‘Hey, what is your routine?’ Because I’ve had to pinch-hit and I know what that’s like, and everybody’s a little bit different,” Blowers said. “And he said, ‘I started moving around in the fourth inning. I started to get my mind right and then I start thinking about it. I expected to hit left-handed and they switched the pitcher out so I had to hit right-handed … but that was the only thing that (wasn’t expected).’ He goes, ‘I’m to the point now to where I have a real good idea when Scott is going to use me and I get myself ready for that. But I’m thinking about it and moving around in the fourth inning.'”

Cal Raleigh and the Seattle Mariners continue a four-game series in Minnesota with Game 3 at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday. Mariners Radio Network coverage begins with the pregame show at 3:30 p.m. on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the Seattle Sports app and SeattleSports.com, and coverage of the 10:10 a.m. series finale Thursday will start at 9 a.m. with pregame. For details on how to stream Mariners radio broadcasts from Seattle Sports, click here.

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How Seattle Mariners’ Cal Raleigh impresses former MLB catcher

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How has Mariners’ Cal Raleigh become a threat from the right side?