ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Mariners’ waning patience with the situation disintegrated long before manager Scott Servais was ejected from Thursday’s loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field after very angrily voicing his disgust with a pair of called strikes on Julio Rodriguez by home plate umpire Shane Livensparger.

A few days ago, the Mariners sent a letter to Major League Baseball to outline what they believe to be the unfair treatment of Rodriguez by MLB’s umpires pertaining to called strikes, particularly called third strikes. With the amount of data available via MLB Statcast and video clips, the Mariners letter is likely to be well documented.

Whether any action or recourse has been taken on the Mariners’ letter or if it has been shared with the umpires union or umpiring crews is unknown. But after yet another called third strike on Rodriguez on a pitch out of the strike zone, Servais had seen enough. And Rodriguez, who has been carefully stoic and muted when it comes to his reaction on the field, finally had a few words.

“What’s going on with Julio Rodriguez right now, it is not right,” Servais said angrily after the game. “I sat at home for a week and watched it while I had COVID. It’s frustrating. I give all the credit in the world to Julio, not many people could handle things the way he has. He’s not barked back. He’s not changed his approach. He’s not chasing balls out of the strike zone, but it’s wrong. He’s a 21-year-old. Let the kid play.”

With two outs in the sixth inning of a 1-1 game, Rodriguez took a check swing at a 2-1 fastball that was above the strike zone per MLB Statcast tracking. From the dugout, Servais saw Rays catcher Rene Pinto, who thought the pitch had been a ball, ask for an appeal on the swing to first base ump and crew chief Tom Hallion, who made the safe sign that Rodriguez didn’t go around. Servais assumed it was a ball and the count was now 3-1.

However, Livensparger had actually called the pitch a strike.


“Then the next pitch is called a ball, which should have been ball four at that point,” Servais said. “I run out there and ask, ‘What is going on here?’ He says, ‘No, I never asked for his help at first base.’ I said, ‘So he’s calling it safe, obviously you got it wrong.’ And he said, ‘No, I called it on the pitch.'”

Servais’ reply to Livensparger, who is normally a minor league umpire and was called up for this series to replace Mark Ripperger, was a version of “that’s absolutely ridiculous” with a modifier or two placed in the response.

The next pitch was a 3-2 changeup above the strike zone, similar to the 2-1 pitch. Rodriguez saw it for a ball and didn’t swing. Livensparger made an emphatic strike three call that left Rodriguez shaking his head in disbelief. He even had a few words before going back to the dugout.

“I thought it was a ball,” Rodriguez said. “I said, ‘It was a bad pitch. It was a terrible pitch.’ When I saw Scott coming in, I knew he saw it. I didn’t even know what else to say.”

Servais let more than a few words fly from the dugout and was ejected moments later. He came out of the dugout and let Livensparger and later Hallion know what he thought of the situation and the past mistakes.


“(Umpires) have been doing that for a minute now, and it feels good that he’s actually got my back,” Rodriguez said of Servais.

Per Statcast data on Baseball Savant, Rodriguez has had 10 called third strikes that are considered out of the strike zone. Servais believes there might be even more calls. Coming into Thursday, Rodriguez had taken 44 total called strikes in his plate appearances with 14 of those coming on pitches considered out of the strike zone by Statcast. He had two called strikes on him in Thursday’s game, which both registered out of the strike zone.

The Mariners feel this goes beyond rookie treatment. Royals rookie Bobby Witt Jr. came into Thursday with 36 pitches called strikes on him and only six considered out of the zone. Spencer Torkelsen of the Tigers has 60 called strikes on him with 10 considered out of the strike zone.

Rodriguez is confused by the situation.

“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been doing anything wrong. I feel I’ve been playing the game respectful, talking to everybody and being nice. So I don’t know if they’ve got something against me or anything.”

But he’s steadfast in his belief of the strike zone and his approach. He will not give in to pitches that he knows aren’t strikes or hittable for the sake of avoiding a strikeout looking. He’s worked too hard to refine his plate discipline.

“I just keep true to myself,” he said. “I told you guys last time we talked about this, it’s gonna come around at some point. I know God is watching and whatever happens, happens. But I’m gonna keep being the same guy and keep my approach.”