J.P. Crawford, run producer? Stay tuned, the Mariners say.
Crawford crushed his first homer of 2021 in Seattle’s 5-4 win over Texas on Friday while batting in the No. 5 hole for the first time in his career as part of manager Scott Servais’ attempt to ignite what has been a scuffling lineup. That tactic played out in the Mariners’ favor when Crawford turned on a 1-1, middle-in changeup from Mike Foltynewicz in the fourth inning with Ty France, who was hitting cleanup, on second base.
The fifth-year shortstop won’t remain in the heart of the order long term, and his game is not predicated on power. He ranks among the lowest tier of all big league hitters in every power contact metric -- but that’s perfectly fine with Mariners management because the rest of Crawford’s contact-driven, disciplined offensive profile has been strong.
“Just be a good hitter,” Servais said. “Square it up, and you get a little older sometimes you get the ball in the air a little bit more consistently and good things happen. But it's not something he's chasing right now. … Frankly, when you start searching for power, bad things happen. I think you need to be a good hitter. I go back to conversations I've had with Julio [Rodríguez] and Jarred Kelenic and guys who we think will grow into power as young players, but be a really good hitter.”
Crawford had just five hits in Spring Training, so he set out to make adjustments with hitting coach Tim Laker and assistant Jarret DeHart. The result has transformed him into a far more consistent hitter. Crawford has reached base in 23 of his past 26 games, his three hits on Friday were a season-high and he raised his wRC+ -- a park, league and era-neutral metric where 100 is league average -- to 102.
“You try to kind of mess with some stuff if you're not feeling a certain way that you could get to pitches better, so I wasn't getting there [and] had to fix something up,” Crawford said. “And just working with J.D. and Lake, they got me right.”
Crawford has been on the fastball all year, hitting a career-best .281 against heaters, per Statcast, but the big uptick the Mariners have seen is against offspeed and breaking balls. Servais attested this improvement to Crawford having another year of experience under his belt.
Crawford vs. secondary pitches: BA | whiff rate
2021: .244 | 27.8%
2020: .218 | 28.4%
2019: .190 | 21.6%
2018: .220 | 30.9%
2017: .190 | 29.6%
“I would say just putting in the work every day,” Crawford said. “I knew I was putting together good ABs early in the season, I just wasn't getting the results that I wanted. So I knew it was going to come eventually.”
Fraley begins hitting
Outfielder Jake Fraley has ramped up his baseball activities to hitting in the cage, running and throwing -- essentially everything -- as he works back from a left hamstring strain he suffered while diving for a ball on April 6. Servais said that Fraley is “making really nice progress on where he’s at.”
Given that Triple-A Tacoma’s season is off and running, it’s likely that Fraley will need a rehab assignment before rejoining the club.
Here are updates on some other injured Mariners from Servais:
• Marco Gonzales (left forearm strain) is building back up and could throw off a mound next week. He’s missed two starts.
• Nick Margevicius (left shoulder inflammation) is still mapping out how to outline his rehab.
• Keynan Middleton (right biceps strain) is still on track to be activated when he’s eligible on May 15.
• Casey Sadler (right shoulder inflammation) is “feeling better with his issue” and could be back soon.
Turner is Seattle’s Honorary Bat Girl
The Mariners will recognize Karyn Turner as their Honorary Bat Girl, one of 30 women MLB clubs will support in their annual effort on each Mother’s Day to highlight extraordinary efforts to support the fight against breast cancer.
Turner is an avid amateur bowler, part-time caterer and full-time accountant at a downtown Seattle firm. She has no family history of any cancer, so she was surprised by a 2016 diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer. The cancer was treated surgically without chemotherapy or radiation.
Since the Mariners will be in Arlington on Sunday, they will recognize Turner at a home game in the near future.