Jarred Kelenic will not be on the Mariners’ Opening Day roster, a decision that had been alluded to many times by Mariners management over the five weeks of Spring Training -- but the promising outfielder is coming sooner than later.
Seattle reassigned Kelenic to Minor League Spring Training on Friday, along with fellow star prospect Julio Rodríguez. Right-handers Brady Lail and Paul Sewald were also reassigned to the Minors. Right-hander Ljay Newsome, reliever Aaron Fletcher and outfielder Braden Bishop, meanwhile, were optioned to the alternate training site, which will be held at T-Mobile Park. That leaves Taylor Trammell and Jake Fraley competing for the left-field job.
“I'm a competitor, and I want to help this team win as soon as possible,” Kelenic said. “But I understand where they're coming from, and all I can do right now is focus on what I need to focus [on] and get there as soon as possible.”
Kelenic has been one of the most prominent players in Seattle’s camp given the particulars of his situation over his readiness for the Majors, his immediate and long-term future as one of the faces of the rebuild and -- more chiefly -- his standout performance in Cactus League play. The 21-year-old went 6-for-18 with two homers and a 1.256 OPS over nine games.
“The meeting went really well,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I think he's in a good spot, and I think part of that is because we've been as transparent with him as we possibly can be. So, that being said, he wants to get going with the season.”
MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect, Kelenic returned from a Grade 2 adductor strain near his right knee in just 12 days and quickly put the health of the leg to the test with impressive plays out of the batter’s box and in the outfield last Friday.
“It took him out of a lot of action for 10, 11 days, right in the middle of camp there, the early part of camp, which certainly affected things,” Servais said. “But like I said, he’s a really exciting young player. I saw him and Julio, both really start to settle in and get better as the camp went along. So those are all really good signs.”
By remaining in Arizona instead of being optioned to the alternate training site, Kelenic will be able to play in competitive games against opposing teams. Servais said that there are ongoing conversations with other clubs about scheduling games among players left in the sort of limbo that Kelenic is -- needing competition immediately.
“Every organization is in the same spot with guys that are coming out of big league camp, that maybe not going to the alternate site,” Servais said. “And we want to keep those younger, high-end prospects playing games, because they're game ready.”
And again, Kelenic is coming sooner than later.
“100 percent, and that was kind of what I was communicated to in my meeting, is that the finish line is right there,” Kelenic said. “And now, I’ve just got to keep going on and focus on the things that I need to focus on. And that's really all I can control. Be a good teammate, especially being down here. It's not the ideal situation, obviously. I’d rather be going to an affiliate or something like that to play games. But it's the cards that I was dealt, and I'm just going to continue to play my tail off.”
How did he assess his spring, as well as his teammates’?
“I thought it was it was exciting -- not only as a player, but also as a fan,” Keleic said of his spring, “because you got to kind of see this core group all together on one field. It was definitely reassuring, seeing how hard each and every one of the guys worked every single day, whether it was in the cage, in their bullpens, defensive work, whatever it may be. That was that was the fun part about this."