A knowing smile will appear on the face of Mariners manager Scott Servais when asked about or discussing the exploits, the talents and the confidence of young rookie Jarred Kelenic.
He can’t help it.
A day after Kelenic helped the Mariners to a 7-3 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night, Servais had plenty to smile about on Saturday. Kelenic’s first MLB hit was a laser of a two-run homer to right-center and his other two hits were a pair of hustling doubles that showcased his speed and intensity with which he treats every single moment on the field.
Asked about that intensity postgame and his unwillingness to give an at-bat away, Kelenic talked about wanting to bury every opponent and every opposing pitcher and refusing to take a single pitch off.
Servais heard a replay of Kelenic’s postgame comments as he was driving home from the stadium and his reaction was as expected.
“I actually smiled when I heard it,” Servais said. “You’ll say those things in the clubhouse and when you’re around your teammates in the dugout. But it’s OK to have a guy once in a while that’ll say it publicly. I think it’s great. We do want to bury our opponent every night. I don’t know what team out there that doesn’t.”
It’s all part of the Kelenic personality – intense, unafraid and passionate for the game.
“The energy he brings and the excitement, he certainly backs it up with the talent,” Servais said. “We’re starting to see that play out on the field here at the major-league level. It’s exciting. It’s fun to watch now. It’s going to be fun to watch in the future.”
As for Kelenic treating every at-bat like it’s a personal battle between him and the pitcher for their souls, well, that’s not a bad thing for a kid that’s only 21 and played in all of two MLB games. Some players never develop that mindset in their careers.
“You see it in particular guys at certain points in their career and where they’re at, and certainly he’s just getting going here, but that’s his demeanor,” Servais said. “He is wired a certain way that it is a battle every time he steps into the batter’s box. There’s gonna be some at-bats along the way where he pops up to the pitcher, he rolls over to the second baseman, it happens. It’s part of baseball. But he has a really good plan. He’s got a really good approach. He’s asking the right questions. He’s very in-tune. He watches the game very intently.”
That last part is something that not all players do. Many of them will be watching video of their previous at-bat on iPads or go behind the dugout to take swings off the tee or just relax on the bench.
“Jarred is not really that way,” Servais said.
Kelenic is always on the top step of the dugout, usually not far from Mitch Haniger or Kyle Seager.
“He’s watching the pitcher,” Servais said. “He’s watching his other teammates. He’s talking to hitting coaches. He’s constantly asking questions. He’s very inquisitive. That’s just how he is by nature. And I hope that continues for years to come. And it is one of those things that does rub off on others. He just creates different discussions in the dugout by the questions he asks, because he just wants to learn and get better as quick as he can. So all those are positives. And what we’ve seen so far, he’s certainly not giving any at-bats away here.”
As for the hustle doubles, Servais is all for Kelenic pushing the limits of opposing outfielders – bury them too if possible.
“I think everybody that has seen Jarred play in spring training and how he goes about it, you weren’t really surprised by it,” Servais said. “I certainly wasn’t when both balls hit. I’m thinking that’s a double easy for him. He’s gonna go. He’s not gonna stop, there’s no way and I don’t want him to stop. I don’t want him to stop until he starts getting thrown out a lot. That’s not going to happen very often so keep pushing the envelope. It does create a certain buzz or energy pumped into the dugout.”
Servais said the left wrist injury that sent Ty France to the injured list has been a nagging issue that simply became too much to deal with moving forward. The Mariners believe it’s also a reason why France has been mired in a massive slump with just two hits in his past 35 plate appearances.
“It’s something that he had felt probably about, I want to say 10 days to two weeks ago,” Servais said. “Every day checking in with, getting a little treatment and him consistently saying ‘I’m OK, I can play. I can play through it.’ ”
The Mariners are hoping that France’s wrist will get better in the next week and he will be ready to go when the 10-day minimum is up.
“I don’t think he’s going to be out a ton,” Servais said. “Obviously, he’s going to be out 10 days, but very hopeful. He’s got a splint on it and he’s taking some strong anti-inflammatories to kind of quiet down the inflammation that is going on in that wrist. The thought is once that calms down here in three to five days, you can put a bat back in his hand and see how he starts to feel.”