Drayer: Mariners prospects Julio Rodriguez, Kyle Lewis shine in win over White Sox

Feb 28, 2019, 5:10 PM
Mariners prospect Kyle Lewis hit his second home run of the spring Thursday. (AP)...
Mariners prospect Kyle Lewis hit his second home run of the spring Thursday. (AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – Mariners manager Scott Servais teased Thursday morning that 18 -year-old outfielder Julio Rodriguez, one of Seattle’s top prospects, would be among the minor league call-ups for the game against the White Sox.

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Earlier in the week Servais brought up another top prospect, Jarred Kelenic, and gave him his first action in a big league game as a defense-only replacement in the top of the eighth inning. On Thursday in the stadium, fans got to see more of Rodriguez, who entered the game in right field in the seventh inning and took his first at-bat in the eighth.

The result? A hard-hit single off the glove of the shortstop.

Rodriguez didn’t have much time to take in the moment at first base, because the next batter was Kyle Lewis, who crushed a ball that went out to left for his second home run of the spring. And just two batters after that, Braden Bishop added a solo home run.

All three of those players are outfield prospects ranked in the Mariners’ top 10 by MLB Pipeline. Hello youth.

“Fun day,” Servais said on the field after the 8-3 win. “It’s nice when you get our second group of guys coming in. Every day there is something interesting, something fun to watch. Jake Fraley swung the bat really good, as well.”

Before Servais spoke to the media he participated in the victory high-five line with the team. As Rodriguez approached him, the young outfielder could be heard exclaiming “I told you!” before he received a high-five and hug from his manager.

While not in big league camp, Rodriguez has been very visible at the Mariners’ games, just waiting to get his opportunity. Servais was as interested as anybody to see Rodriguez’s reaction to getting into a big league game. The first impression was good.

“It’s some kind of personality,” Servais said. “It’s infectious when he is in the game. He was really quiet beforehand, and as soon as you let him know he was coming in the game he was a ball of fire. There was a pretty good chance he was going to hit the ball hard.”

And the comment after the game?

“It says there’s a lot going on there,” Servais said. “He’s a fun kid. I said, ‘Have you got this guy?’ and he said, “We’re going to find out” as he was walking out there. He’s not intimidated.”

Also not intimidated is Lewis, who has faced many questions coming off a devastating knee injury in 2016 and recovery that has had its share of issues.

At the plate we are seeing what prompted the Mariners to take him with their first pick in the 2016 draft. With all of the excitement surrounding the younger prospects in the organization, Lewis’ bat is serving notice that yes, he is still here and yes, he is healthy.

“He’s taking really great swings, which is really great to see from a guy who has come through so much with the injuries,” said Servais. “He is letting it rip when he gets up there and that’s what you want to see from the young guys.”

A young player who impressed on the pitching side was Justin Dunn, acquired along with Kelenic in the Robinson Canó/Edwin Díaz deal with the Mets. He put in a second strong, high-octane outing, pitching two scoreless innings.

“I thought he was outstanding today,” Servais said. “Just how he attacked guys. He just really wanted to change his mentality. He is a power pitcher, you saw it. He’s got the stuff.”

While the late innings were highlighted by the youth of the organization, a veteran held the interest early. Félix Hernández showed a different look for a second straight outing. While he pitched from the stretch exclusively in his first start of the spring, he went back to the windup – but there was a twist, or more accurately there wasn’t a twist.

“He cut down the quarter turn,” Servais pointed out. “Being simpler, staying over the rubber longer, staying on line longer, you have a better idea of where the pitches are going. It’s about location with Félix. It’s a good adjustment and he is still working with it.”

Félix posted two 1-2-3 innings around another bumpy second frame where he gave up 2 runs. Despite the runs, Servais saw progress.

“The curveball was pretty good today,” he said. “He got his work in, had some trouble in the second but he got through it. Four strikeouts, building arm strength. I was pretty happy with what I saw there.”

The Mariners will play two Friday with a B game against the NC Dinos from Korea at 10 a.m. followed by a game against the Brewers in the main stadium.

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Drayer: Mariners prospects Julio Rodriguez, Kyle Lewis shine in win over White Sox