SEATTLE -- While the Mariners were getting underway against the Orioles on Tuesday at T-Mobile Park, three of their most prominent pieces of the future were getting settled in 35 miles south.
That would be Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert and Cal Raleigh, who reported to Triple-A Tacoma ahead of its Opening Day on Thursday against El Paso. This classification represents the highest for each, and also, an indication that the Majors aren’t far off for the trio. That reminder is all the more pronounced given Tacoma’s proximity to Seattle.
Above all, the trio is excited to be playing competitive, regular-season games again after missing out on that opportunity in 2020, then having the Minors season delayed in ’21.
“For sure. Just to be back focusing on the pitcher for that night is something that I think will kind of distract me a little bit,” Kelenic said.
It’s not just beneficial that the three are close by and beginning to play in critical games again -- the Mariners might have a legitimate need for each at some point in the near future. Below are reasons why, how they’re handling the excitement of reaching this point and managing the emotions of staying in the moment.
Kelenic (Mariners’ No. 1 prospect)
Timeline: This month. Not only did Kelenic look ready in big league Spring Training, the Mariners have received a slash line of .167/.286/.328 and 84 wRC+ (league average is 100) from their left fielders this season. And the club has already passed the April 16 cutoff to retain an extra year of service time for the star outfielder. They’ll want to make sure that he holds his own against Pacific Coast League pitching, but that shouldn’t be for weeks on end. And though he’s unproven in the Majors, the uber-confident Kelenic could be the kind of jolt Seattle’s scuffling offense needs.
Managing the moment: “I mean, it's hard. There's no two ways about it. I'm human," Kelenic said. "I think if anybody was in my shoes, it’d be the same thing. For me, I just try to take it one day at a time. That's how I was raised. Today, I just came in, got my work and got my swing where I want it to be. And tomorrow, we'll come in and do it again.”
Gilbert (No. 4)
Timeline: Like Kelenic, very soon. Yes, the Mariners plan to be mindful of Gilbert’s innings, but after losing three starters to the injured list in April, there is a far more legitimate need for a reinforcement. That concern became even more exacerbated when they had to turn to a bullpen game on Monday, a strategy that doesn’t seem sustainable, particularly given that they’re intent on sticking with a six-man rotation. Gilbert will make multiple starts with Tacoma, but the fact that he’ll be stretched out to five innings when he starts Friday indicates that the Mariners are building him up to contribute soon.
Managing the moment: “I think I've always taken a lot of pride in my work and what I do on the mound," Gilbert said. "So of course, the big picture, I want to get to the bigs. I want to stay there for a long time. But from a day-to-day aspect, it doesn't really change what I do, how I build out my business. … I'm trying to maximize my work for that day. And know that I got better today than I was yesterday. So, I just have to remind myself of that and really stay focused on that.”
Raleigh (No. 8)
Timeline: He could probably hit his way onto the roster at this point. Tom Murphy and Luis Torrens are hitting a combined .175/.227/.325 and have been collectively worth minus 0.1 WAR. So, while Raleigh was likely touted for a mid-to-late-summer callup, the switch-hitting backstop’s timeline could be accelerated if he stands out early.
Managing the moment: “It's good, but it also doesn't really mean anything," Raleigh said. "They can call guys up from Double-A. They call guys from Triple-A and sign free agents. All of that, it doesn't really matter. All the fluff, it doesn't really matter as much. You’ve still got to go out every night and perform and do your job and show up every day. That's what I’m prepared to do. That's what I'll keep doing until I finally get a call.”
White reinstated; Fletcher recalled
First baseman Evan White rejoined the Mariners on Tuesday after missing four games while on the bereavement list. Seattle also added left-hander Aaron Fletcher as a fresh arm to its relief corps after the club turned exclusively to relievers in Monday’s 5-3 loss to Baltimore. White was in the Mariners’ lineup on Tuesday, batting sixth and playing first base.
Fletcher, the club’s No. 18 prospect, will look to rebound from a tough debut season in 2020, when he gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings and looked overwhelmed. Like many impacted by the odd quirks of last year, the Mariners are hoping those were learning experiences more than anything.
In corresponding moves, the club optioned relievers Wyatt Mills and Domingo Tapia to the alternate training site, which will transition into Tacoma’s roster this week.