'I’ve been dreaming of this moment': Clase earns first callup

April 16th, 2024

SEATTLE -- Julio Rodríguez halted a conversation in the home clubhouse at T-Mobile Park on Monday afternoon, lunged a few strides to his left and gave a familiar face a big hug of congratulations.

That familiar face would be , who made his Major League debut as the Mariners beat the Reds, 9-3, and joined Rodríguez in Seattle’s outfield for the club’s series opener against Cincinnati after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. Clase took the roster spot of left fielder Dominic Canzone, who was placed on the 10-day IL with a left AC joint sprain after crashing into the left-field wall on Sunday.

A few hours later, Clase ripped his first career hit and RBI when punching a late-dipping changeup from Nick Martinez through the left-side hole and past a diving Elly De La Cruz, which extended the Mariners’ lead to 6-2 in the sixth inning. Clase also broke his bat on his first career swing, a foul ball in the first.

As for his friendship with Rodriguez, these natives of the Dominican Republic aren’t just comrades who’ve known each other since 2017 and lived together in Arizona in the early stages of their pro careers. They’re also the fastest runners in the organization.

Clase, after all, became the first player since Minor League stats began tracking in 1961 to steal 79 bases and hit at least 20 homers in the same season in 2023, just as Rodríguez became the 44th member of the 30/30 club in the Majors.

Rodríguez joked that his new teammate might have hesitation about a footrace, but he’s fairly certain that Clase will have the green light if he reaches base.

“If he gets on, probably,” Rodríguez said. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Clase, who was already on the club’s 40-man roster, batted eighth and played left field on Monday.

“My whole life, I’ve been dreaming of this moment,” Clase said.

Clase is the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline and in the Majors perhaps sooner than many might’ve envisioned. He was expected to debut in 2024, but there were also pointed efforts to get more offensive reps in the Pacific Coast League while continuing to hone the defensive strides he made in Spring Training.

The Mariners opted to recall him over Samad Taylor, who made a solid impression filling in earlier this month while Ty France was on the paternity list, and Cade Marlowe, who played in 34 games with the big league team last year.

“You always remember those conversations you have with guys at the end of spring, and he really stood out,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Clase. “He’s a guy who took a major step forward in his game, and I told him at that time, ‘It won't be long. You will be here very soon.’ And we look up on April 15, and he's here.”

Clase slashed .311/.396/.622 (1.018 OPS) with two homers, two triples and four doubles in 53 plate appearances at Tacoma, after being promoted there out of camp. He played nine of his 12 games in center field.

An international signee for $35,000 in 2018, Clase joined the organization at 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, but he said on Monday that he’s up to 190 pounds. His size is primarily why he flew under the radar.

“He was not like a big, high-dollar sign like some of the kids get out of Latin America,” Servais said. “He's kind of a self-made kid that just worked his tail off, and he continues to get better and improve every step of the way.”

Servais also made it sound like Clase will see regular reps, especially with his switch-hit tool.

“If he plays really well, you play more,” Servais said. “That's just the way it goes in this league."