When the MLB.com app and the Mariners’ various social media accounts released the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the Minnesota Twins, Julio Rodriguez’s name was noticeably absent.
For the first and only time since April 12, the Mariners’ fifth game of the season, Rodriguez was not in the starting lineup.
“Yes, he’s not in the lineup,” manager Scott Servais deadpanned knowing that was the pregame story. “He’s getting a day off. We’re in a stretch where I think we play 11 games in 10 days, or something like that. So I thought I’d give Julio a day [off]. We’ll try to get a few of our regular guys a day off here during the week, heading into the doubleheader [vs. the Angels] on Saturday.
Going into that early April game vs. the White Sox, Rodriguez had just one hit — a double — in 15 plate appearances with a walk and seven strikeouts.
Rodriguez was back in the starting lineup April 13 and hasn’t been out of the lineup until Monday — a span of 55 games.
Over those 55 games, he posted a .275/ .338/.436 slash line with eight doubles, a triple, eight homers, 28 RBI, 17 walks, 67 strikeouts and 16 stolen bases. At just 21 years old, Rodriguez is blossoming from a precocious prospect to a budding superstar and one of the Mariners’ most reliable all-around players.
The lineup that featured Taylor Trammell starting in center field and Eugenio Suarez moving into the cleanup spot felt less dynamic and exciting.
But over the two hard-fought series with the Astros in Houston and the Red Sox to open the homestand, Rodriguez did look like a player who could use a day to catch his breath and reset. Over his last five games, he had just two hits — both in Saturday’s walkoff win over the Red Sox, which included his ninth homer — in 23 plate appearances with two walks, two hit by pitches and eight strikeouts.
Besides the physical grind of playing every game at his typically intense levels, there can be a need for a mental reset as well.
“I think it depends how they’re doing physically,” Servais said of how he wanted Rodriguez to handle the off day. “I think Julio is hanging in there physically, pretty well. Sometimes the off day is more about a mental break than a physical break. So I kind of leave it up to the guys on their own. If he wants to come out, take BP and run around, great. If he doesn’t, that’s OK, too.”
Of course, the game could dictate how much of an off day it was for Rodriguez.
“Knowing Julio, if we have a spot to use him late in the game, he’ll be ready to go out and do that,” Servais said. “But off days are a good once in a while.”
Servais said they haven’t determined their exact pitching plan for Saturday’s doubleheader vs. the Angels. Right-hander Chris Flexen, who started Monday night vs. Minnesota, will start one of those games. The other is “to be determined.”
The Mariners will be able to add an extra player to their 26-man roster for that game. It’s almost certain they will add another pitcher to make that start. The Mariners could go with lefty Justus Sheffield as a starter. He’s struggled of late, allowing 13 earned runs in his last two starts. Seattle could also make a bullpen start and bring up right-hander Matt Brash as a depth arm.