Pollock's postseason experience a valuable addition

Mariners appreciate veteran's perspective, partnership with Kelenic

March 10th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After ending the multi-decade postseason drought that hung over Seattle like the clouds the city is known so well for, the Mariners entered Spring Training with a hunger to ensure that their taste of the playoffs would turn into something more filling.

Seattle spent the offseason strategically making moves to bolster its roster, confident that its core can carry it into the next phase of the organization’s development: becoming a perennial postseason contender. The one position group that saw the most turnover in that effort was the outfield.

While the November trade for Teoscar Hernández drew the most attention, followed by the departure of longtime Mariner Mitch Haniger in his first taste of free agency and the December deal that sent away Jesse Winker in exchange for expected starting second baseman Kolten Wong, Seattle made a quieter acquisition that could end up paying dividends during the 2023 season.

AJ Pollock, the 35-year-old veteran with a World Series title to his name from his 2020 season with the Dodgers, signed a one-year contract worth $7 million with the Mariners in January. After turning down a $13 million player option with the White Sox for the ’23 campaign (accepting a $5 million buyout), Pollock chose Seattle as the place where he might be able to have the greatest impact.

Though it’s still the early days of spring camp, the Mariners have already seen what he has to offer.

“Bringing in veteran players is important, but you’ve got to get the right ones in here,” said manager Scott Servais. “Certainly, he’s got playoff experience; he’s been on really good teams. I think it’s a good fit for him, and I know it’s a good fit for us. … He’s brought a lot to our clubhouse.”

In addition to all three years with the Dodgers (2019-21), Pollock first reached the postseason in ’17 with the D-backs, the team he played with for seven seasons, earning both an All-Star nod and a National League Gold Glove Award; he was selected by Arizona in the first round (17th overall) of the 2009 MLB Draft.

So he has been around the game long enough to know what it takes to reach its highest echelons.

“It’s not so much that I’m going to have a different perspective. It’s just that when I say something, might be the same thing as someone else, but you can probably look at as, ‘Yeah, I mean, I’m speaking from experience,’” Pollock said. “I feel like I’ve experienced being on good teams, I’ve experienced being on bad teams and I’ve experienced being in the middle, and I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on teams and stuff that I’ve seen work and stuff that I’ve seen not work.”

Within the Mariners’ outfield picture, Pollock is expected to take on a platoon role, partnering with the left-handed-hitting Jarred Kelenic primarily in left field. Kelenic, the club’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline in 2021 -- ahead of reigning AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez -- was a first-round Draft pick as well. Yet another reason why having Pollock around could be a boon for the 23-year-old entering a pivotal year with Seattle.

“What I’ve noticed is that he’s an all-around good dude,” said Kelenic, who has been putting together a standout spring. “I’ve enjoyed spending time with him and picking his brain and talking to him, because he’s definitely a very smart individual. But at the same time, I’ve got my routine that gets me right; he has his.

“He’s big on just making sure that I’m being myself. I’ve heard him say it a few times: ‘Just be you.’ That’s just kind of what I’ve been doing.”

At this stage of his career, Pollock isn’t worried as much about playing time, knowing that there are plenty of ways he can make a difference for the Mariners. Still, he’s spending the spring with the same drive that has given him staying power in the big leagues.

“I don’t ever want to prepare like I’m a platoon player; I prepare like I’m an everyday player,” Pollock said. “I’m not going to be too up or too down whether I’m getting at-bats or not. I feel like these guys are going to communicate to me when I’m going to get opportunities and when I might be sitting, and that’s huge.”

And when the time comes, Pollock will try to help the Mariners build postseason staying power, too.

“Being on the stage where the emotions are high and the stakes are really high, I’ve been there and I’ve seen how players and coaches and everyone responds to that situation,” he said. “When you experience that stuff, it will only help you.”