As Mariners’ Luke Raley heats up, he’s becoming a coach favorite

May 15, 2024, 9:36 AM | Updated: 10:47 am

Seattle Mariners...

Luke Raley of the Seattle Mariners celebrates hitting a two-run home run during a 2024 game. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

SEATTLE – Luke Raley wasn’t getting consistent playing time early this season, but the Seattle Mariners outfielder is becoming a favorite among coaches while showing he should be in the lineup more frequently.

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The left-handed hitting Raley had a career night in Monday’s 6-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. He tied career highs with three hits and three RBIs, belting a mammoth two-run home run to center field and adding a stolen base. He also hit a solo home run in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss.

Those were the latest in what’s been a string of solid performances for the offseason trade acquisition. Since Seattle sent outfielder Jonatan Clase back to the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers on April 29, Raley is slashing .375/.444/.688 with three home runs and seven RBI while playing in 12 of 15 games entering Wednesday. His 226 wRC+ is tops on the team during that stretch and his 0.6 fWAR is second only to Josh Rojas (0.7).

Mariners manger Scott Servais said Raley is getting back to what he does best at the plate.

“Luke really does best when he pulls the ball,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “In a perfect world, you want everybody to hit the ball all over the field. Some players … it doesn’t work that way with their swing. So understanding when he is at his best, he still will hit some balls out in the opposite field – we’ve seen him do it – but staying in the middle of the field to the pull side is what works for him, and he’s getting some of those pitches. He’s also not missing them.

“When guys are struggling, they’re getting their pitches, but they foul them back. They’re not putting them in play, and he’s getting them in play right now.”

Raley struggled mightily during his first spring training with the club after being picked up in a swap with the Tampa Bay Rays for infielder José Caballero. In 44 at-bats over 18 Cactus League games, Raley batted .158/.245/.227 with no home runs and just two extra-base hits. Left-handed outfielder Dominic Canzone was having a breakout spring at the same time, which made playing time hard to come by for Raley early this season. Even when Canzone went to the injured list with a sprained AC joint in mid-April, the Mariners elected to give the unproven 21-year-old Clase a shot over Raley, who slugged 19 home runs for the Rays last year.

The Mariners now have Canzone back. After a three-game rehab assignment with Tacoma that started over the weekend, he was activated before Wednesday’s series finale against Kansas City. The Mariners can play both Canzone and Raley in the corner outfield spots against right-handed pitchers, as they did Wednesday, and there’s also the option of using Raley at first base to give Ty France rest against right-handers.

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Whichever direction the M’s decide to go, Raley is playing his way into more at-bats.

“He’s a throwback and he’s quickly becoming a favorite of many on the coaching staff, just because he’s not afraid (and) he plays the game extremely hard,” Servais said. “One of my favorite things is – when he hits a base hit – is how hard he runs to first base and how he rounds first base, kind of like when you were taught in high school.”

More on the Seattle Mariners

• M’s may have prospects for trades to take advantage of ‘wide open’ AL
• Mariners trade reliever to Cubs for Triple-A 3B with strong numbers
• ‘I cringe at it,’ Salk says of one critique of Mariners’ offense
• Will MLB trade market play into what Mariners need to fix?
• Watch: Seattle Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez blasts second HR of season

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