'I just feel terrible': Kelenic fractures foot after kicking cooler

July 20th, 2023

SEATTLE -- Jarred Kelenic has always played with an emotional edge, sometimes admittedly to a fault, and now the Mariners outfielder will be sidelined for the foreseeable future after, in his words, he “let the emotions get the best of me.”

Kelenic suffered a left foot fracture after kicking a Gatorade cooler in the home dugout following a nine-pitch strikeout during the ninth inning of Seattle’s 6-3 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday, when he was at bat as the tying run.

“I just feel terrible,” a visibly distraught and teary Kelenic said on Thursday morning, before the Mariners closed out the series with a 5-0 win. “Especially for the guys. I just let the emotions get the best of me, and I just let them down. I take full responsibility for it. It’s on me. That just can’t happen.”

After watching a curveball land in the middle of the zone, following some competitive fouls on pitches well above 100 mph from Jhoan Duran, Kelenic stormed back to the dugout and dented the cooler.

“We came up last night with the game on the line, two guys on against arguably the best closer in baseball,” Kelenic said. “And I just put together a good at-bat, was just grinding, and unfortunately couldn't come through. And like I said, I made a mistake.”

Surgery isn’t needed, per Mariners manager Scott Servais. But Kelenic will be out for an extended period.

“Not from what I’ve been told,” Servais said of surgery. “I know it’s his left foot. A broken bone, I don’t know what the timetable is, but it takes a while for those things to heal. So he’ll be in a boot and immobilized for the time being.”

In the interim, outfielder Cade Marlowe -- the Mariners’ No. 14 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma. The lefty-hitting Marlowe will likely platoon with veteran AJ Pollock for the time being.

“[Marlowe will] get an opportunity to play,” Servais said. “We're going to fire him right into the day and let him go. Again, trying to do what's best, put players in the best position to have success. And we've got some right-handed guys off the bench who can help if there's a left-hander out there. So, see what the game brings us, but he'll get an opportunity to play and see what he does with it.”

Kelenic has long been known for his emotional flareups, particularly during his rookie season if a call or break didn't go his way. And although there have been occasional such moments in 2023, they’d been fewer and farther between and more subdued -- until Wednesday. He’s been far more deliberate about his mental approach, dating all the way back to when he arrived at Spring Training.

“I love to win,” he said. “I’m a huge competitor, and that’s the hardest part; I can’t be out there to help the guys.”

Kelenic has cooled mightily on offense since his red-hot April, when he was among MLB’s most productive players. But he’s still been a key cog to a Seattle lineup that’s been far more pedestrian than its front office anticipated. 

Since hitting .322/.375/.644 (1.019 OPS) in his first 25 games, which featured some of Seattle’s biggest highlights of the year, Kelenic has hit .226/.301/.364 (.665 OPS) in his ensuing 65 while seeing his strikeout rate climb to 32.6% for the season, third-highest in MLB.

“Nobody feels worse about it than Jarred does,” Servais said. “I think it's a learning lesson for him, for all players. Players get frustrated when they're not getting the results they're looking for. But you've got to be able to control your emotions. That's part of being a professional. Last night he let it get the best of him, and it affects all of us.”

The development comes at a time when the Mariners continue to hover around .500 with less than two weeks until the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, with offense being their primary need. And now that they’ve lost one of their everyday offensive contributors, the outlook to how they approach the Deadline becomes much murkier.

"It's a very average offensive team and we have to find a way to become better than average,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said earlier Thursday on his weekly radio hit with Seattle Sports. “It's going to require some creative moves because we don't have the next wave of bats at Triple-A ready to come and push us over that edge."