Kelenic back, eager to do 'whatever I can' down the stretch

September 22nd, 2022

OAKLAND -- At this time last year, was one of the catalysts orchestrating the Mariners’ September surge that saw them nearly reach the postseason. And after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma ahead of Wednesday’s game against the A’s at the Coliseum, he’s hoping to replicate some of that late-season magic. 

Only this time, his role won’t be as prominent -- at least for now. 

"Whatever I can to help this team win," Kelenic said. "Whatever they need me to do. If they need me to pitch, I'll be ready to pitch."

Kelenic was not in the starting lineup against Oakland righty James Kaprielian, whom he’s hitless against in eight plate appearances. Seattle instead started Jesse Winker in left field. Winker, too, has seen diminished playing time, sitting against most lefties and being lifted late in games 12 times over the past month, typically when the Mariners have a lead and manager Scott Servais opts for a stronger defender. 

That’s also how they’ll likely use Kelenic, who took the roster spot of fellow left-handed-hitting outfielder Taylor Trammell -- who was also seeing almost no playing time, totaling just 17 plate appearances over the last three weeks despite playing above-average defense. The Mariners also designated Jake Lamb for assignment and selected catcher Luis Torrens from Tacoma on Wednesday.

"He'll get a chance to play," Servais said of Kelenic. "He will probably not play every day for us, but we’ll mix him in and give us an opportunity to give guys a break."

Kelenic plays hard, runs the bases well, has shown defensive improvements this year after moving out of center field -- and more chiefly, of late, he’s hitting. Since being optioned to Tacoma on Aug. 11, his second stint there this season, Kelenic hit .307/.384/.567 (.951 OPS), with seven homers and 12 doubles in 33 games. Over the past two weeks (Sept. 6-18), it’s .400/.451/.711 (1.162 OPS).

"It’s been a really good last couple of weeks," Kelenic said. "I went through a rough patch probably like three weeks ago and made a good adjustment and just ran with it."

Specifically, Kelenic focused on having less moving parts to what he described as a more "clean" swing. Recognizing and making those adjustments were admittedly a challenge earlier this year. 

"I kind of have an idea of when something is a little bit out of whack," Kelenic said. "But for me, I knew that, especially when I wasn't performing, something wasn't right, [so I] just worked on getting back to where I wanted to be."

Hitting at Triple-A has never been a challenge; 53 of his 104 hits there, more than half, have gone for extra bases, including a whopping 32 doubles over 86 games. But he’s struggled to translate that to the Majors, where he’s hit .124/.187/.265 (.452 OPS) in 40 games this year. 

"You're never, ever going to be content," Kelenic said. "I think that this game is ... constantly, you’re going to have to make adjustments. You’re never going to have it 100 percent figured out. So for me, it's just about the small things that I need to make sure I've got to do to get ready to try to stay as consistent as possible. And when something feels off, make the adjustment to get back on track."

Last September/October, Kelenic hit .248/.331/.524 (.854 OPS) with seven homers, and was one of Seattle’s best players during the club's late playoff run. Back with the team again, he’ll get a chance to contribute again, even if not as regularly.

"I think the one thing that stood out for me last year in September for Jarred was he was totally focused on doing whatever helped us win the game that day," Servais said. "That’s what happens in September. ... When Jarred is in that mode, like a lot of players, they play much better. They play freer, and hopefully that’s what we see from him."