'Learning day' for Julio; Marco reaching goals

March 31st, 2022

MESA, Ariz. – Julio Rodríguez was the center of attention on Wednesday.

The Mariners’ top prospect went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts in Seattle's 8-5 loss to the Cubs at Sloan Park. Overall, Rodríguez is still slashing .304/.360/.565 in nine Cactus League games as he continues to make a case for a spot on the big league club.

The young outfielder from Loma de Cabrera, Dominican Republic, has one home run, five RBIs and nine strikeouts this spring. And like all players his age, he also has room for improvement.

“Julio had a learning day today,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “… He’s learning, and that’s part of it. We are giving these young guys an opportunity, and hopefully they can take it, run with it and learn from it.”

Rodríguez wasted little time against the Cubs, smacking the first pitch of the game from Drew Smyly over center fielder Jason Heyward’s head deep into the gap in right-center field for his third double of the spring.

The 21-year-old was in position to score from second base when the next batter, Ty France, followed with a single to center field, but Rodríguez slid headfirst into third base to extinguish the scoring chance. The unnecessary slide proved costly when Smyly sat down the next three Mariners in order to strand Rodríguez at third base.

The young outfielder went on to strike out on three pitches -- all of them offspeed -- in his second at-bat during the third inning. He later lost a fly ball in the sun in the bottom of the frame.

Rodríguez struck out looking in the fourth and swinging in the sixth for his second three-strikeout game of the spring.

“He smoked the first ball the first pitch of the game for a double, and after that he got an assortment of offspeed breaking pitches,” Servais said. “He really didn’t make a good adjustment today, but he will be back in there tomorrow.”

Where Rodríguez will be next week when the club breaks camp is to be determined.

Here’s what we know: Mitch Haniger will get the majority of the playing time in right field for the Mariners, and Jesse Winker will be in left field when he’s not the designated hitter. Left field could also be a spot where Jarred Kelenic gets playing time if Rodríguez makes the team and takes over the center-field job.

Other factors include the emergence of veterans Billy Hamilton and Steven Souza Jr., player health and, of course, how the Mariners use the DH.

Gonzales makes his pitch
Ignore the pitching line, veteran left-hander is a lot closer to being ready for the regular season than it appears.

On Wednesday, Gonzales was charged with six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Cubs. He walked one, struck out seven and was in a jovial mood after his outing because he was able to accomplish a few goals -- which included throwing all of his pitches with conviction, especially his fastball.

“I felt the adjustment I wanted to make with my fastball this week, and it felt a lot better,” Gonzales said. “I was able to jump up the pitch count and get through those labor innings. I felt good for the fifth, too.”

Ford makes Cactus League debut
Harry Ford, the Mariners' first overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft and the team’s No. 5 prospect, made his Cactus League debut in the sixth inning and struck out.