Why Mariners’ emerging phenom Julio Rodríguez is ‘well beyond his years’

The month of May hasn’t been too kind to the scuffling Mariners, but this part of the calendar has at least seen the emergence of rookie outfielder Julio Rodríguez.

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After slashing .206/.284/.260 in April, Rodríguez has come alive in a big way in May. He enters Tuesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics with a .333/.364/.524 slash line for the month with four home runs and 12 RBIs.

“It has been awesome to watch his growth and how he’s handled things, how he continues to learn and improve and just get better in all facets of the game as he’s getting more experienced,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told Jake and Stacy Tuesday afternoon during The Dugout on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

Rodríguez’s growth has especially impressed Servais because not much went his way last month, especially when it came to called strikeouts on pitches on the edge or outside of the zone.

“He wasn’t getting a whole lot of calls from the umpires. It was a struggle,” Servais said. “But to his credit, he never got off his plan. He stayed very consistent to who he is. He wasn’t going to change and he wasn’t going to start chasing pitches, which is hard to do. It’s hard for veteran players, let alone a 21-year-old rookie. Credit to him, it has paid off for him in a big way.”

Rodríguez’s power has showed up in May and he’s continued to play well defensively in center field while adding value with his speed, as evidenced by his MLB-leading 12 stolen bases through 42 games. He’s also providing a big boost to the club with his energy, Servais said.

“The energy he brings to our team every day, it’s been awesome,” Servais said. “And he’s learning every day. There’s something that happens to him every day that you get those big eyes and he says, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen that before.’ It’s just part of it. But he handles everything in stride and he’s having fun. He’s really the epitome of go out and have fun, and you’ve seen the look on his face every day. He loves playing this game.”

Rodríguez has hit all four of his home runs in May, but he’s more focused on just being a good hitter. Servais talked about why that is so impressive for someone with Rodríguez’s skillset.

“It’s so critical. Not many young players can do that. When they have big power, they have a big tool, they want to show it off every chance they get,” he said. “With Julio, he’s always been focused on being a good hitter and being a tough out … As he gets more experienced, you’ll see the home run numbers come up, but that’s the farthest thing from his mind and it really always has been. As a young player, it’s just (focusing on) how to be a tough out, how to get on base. And to do that, he knows he’s got to use the whole field to hit.”

Rodríguez has shown the ability to take pitches the other way for singles, and he hit a big home run to right field in Monday’s win over Oakland.

“He hit the ball out of right field last night. It’s not like he has to pull the ball to hit a home run,” Servais said. “Well beyond his years is all I can say of his maturity level and it’s been awesome to watch.”

You can hear Tuesday’s full Scott Servais Show in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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