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'It's an exciting time to dream about what the Mariners can be.' Mariners call up top prospects Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert ahead of homestand

News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. logoNews Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 5/13/2021 Lauren Smith, The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

May 13—Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto didn't want to put too much pressure on the day itself, he said, but he recognized the symbolism of what was about to unfold Thursday night at T-Mobile Park.

The Mariners, coming back from a road trip during which they dropped four of five games to dip below .500, would get a fresh start with a seven-game homestand against Cleveland and Detroit.

Their roster would also be getting two highly-anticipated additions, with outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-hander Logan Gilbert joining the club for the first time.

Both Kelenic, the organization's top prospect and the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball per MLB Pipeline, and Gilbert, Seattle's No. 4 prospect, were expected to make their long-awaited major league debuts.

"I don't know what will happen later today," Dipoto said during a Thursday morning video call with reporters, not long after the Mariners made the promotions of Kelenic and Gilbert official. "But, I know that we are as excited about this duo of players and their arrival as we've been for anything else that's happened her at least in the six years that I've been here.

"It's an exciting time to dream about what the Mariners can be."

So continues the third season of this ambitious rebuild, which continues to send waves of prospects to the big leagues, and hopes to soon bring postseason baseball back to Seattle.

Both Kelenic and Gilbert are key pieces of that effort.

Bringing Kelenic into the organization in the blockbuster deal that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets in 2018 was one of the first pivotal moves the Mariners made at the outset of this roster overhaul.

The former first-round pick by New York has excelled each step of the way since. Kelenic opened the 2019 season with Low-A West Virginia, was promoted to High-A Modesto less than two months later, and spent the final month of the season with Arkansas.

He hit .291/.364/.540 between the three stops that season with 31 doubles, five triples, 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

Kelenic was projected to reach the majors in 2020, until the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the minor league season. Considering Kelenic had less than 100 bats above A-ball when last season began, the Mariners sent him to their alternate training site in Tacoma for the summer to continue to develop, maintaining their plan to get him more at-bats against experienced pitching before bringing him to Seattle.

The 21-year-old spent only six games with Triple-A Tacoma, but the Mariners believe in that week of regular season at-bats, paired with plate appearances during major league spring training, the co-op league and minor league spring training in Arizona this spring — Dipoto estimated Kelenic had about 130-140 total — Kelenic has shown his readiness to join the big league club.

"He's knocked every challenge we've given him out of the park, really, and has done that since he's been a Mariner," Dipoto said. "But in this latest set of challenges, we challenged him with digging in, with making more of a pointed approach against left-handed pitching, particularly wanting to see him get experience against upper level lefties who have the breaking ball that guys in A-ball sometimes have, but most of the time they don't.

"And, Jarred, I laughed out loud when he had a homer in his first Triple-A at-bat off a lefty, because that's about as appropriate to how Jarred Kelenic accepts challenges as you can imagine. And I'm sure he's going to be up for this next one, which is facing the best pitchers in the world, night after night."

The week Kelenic had in Tacoma was also quite convincing, Dipoto said. Kelenic collected at least one hit in each of his six games in Tacoma — including four multi-hit games — and finished 10-for-27 (.370) with six runs scored, a double, two home runs, five RBI, two walks, five strikeouts and two stolen bases.

He started in left field — where he will presumably play in Seattle — in four games, and in center twice.

"It was pretty loud," Dipoto said. "But, this was never about a lack of belief in what Jarred would do. It was always about making sure that we were building a foundation for success — against left-handers, seeing upper level pitching, guys who pitch backward when you're behind in the count. And I don't know if he's seen enough of that. But I do know that it's been loud enough."

Dipoto also said he knows Kelenic's process is sound.

"Jarred Kelenic is going to be a good hitter in this league," Dipoto said. "I hope that starts today, but minimally I know that to be true. His process and his talent is just too good, and he's done what we asked him to do at every step, so he's being rewarded with the best thing we can give him — which is an opportunity in the big leagues — to show it."

Gilbert, who is Seattle's scheduled starter for the homestand opener, is another who soared through Seattle's farm system after the Mariners drafted him in the first round in 2018.

He made his professional debut with West Virginia in 2019, arrived in Modesto a month later and was in Arkansas, where he finished the season, midway through July. He finished with a 10-5 record and 2.13 ERA across 26 starts between the three stops, and struck out 165 batters while walking 33 in 135 innings.

Like Kelenic, he spent last summer working out at Cheney Stadium, refining his pitches and beginning his build up for an expected promotion to Seattle this spring.

"Middle of May was always a target point for Logan Gilbert, and that was generally based on a slow build up in the spring, methodically building his pitch count to ensure that we could get him through a full season," Dipoto said. "Logan hasn't pitched since 2019, like so many minor league players over the last year-and-a-half or so. He did get some innings in 2020, but it was more like 30 rather than 160-ish that you'd want to see at that stage in his development.

"This year we were targeting something in that 110-120 range, and as a general rule, if we stay on turn from mid-May through the end of the season, if we stay on turn with 5-6 innings starts, you're going to land right about that point."

Gilbert will slot into Seattle's six-man rotation on normal rest after making his season debut with the Rainiers last Friday in Tacoma. He worked quickly and efficiently through Triple-A El Paso's lineup twice in his five scheduled innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out five. He threw 67 pitches, including 47 for strikes.

"He's so well prepared," Dipoto said. "I believe he's as ready for this opportunity as a young pitcher can be. ... He'll be ready for what's in front of him, and I hope the results are as good as his process — because I know that's excellent."

The Mariners also selected right-handed reliever Paul Sewald from Triple-A in their series of roster moves Thursday morning, while optioning left-handed reliever Aaron Fletcher, right-handed reliever Wyatt Mills and outfielder Taylor Trammell, the club's No. 5 prospect who was Seattle's Opening Day center fielder, to Tacoma.

Left-hander Nick Margevicius (thoracic outlet syndrome) and right-hander Ljay Newsome (elbow), who both made starts for the Mariners this season, were also transferred to the 60-day injured list, while outfielder Braden Bishop was designated for assignment.

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