Kelenic era paused

In a stunning admission of reality, the Mariners have optioned prized prospect Jarred Kelenic back to Triple-A Tacoma. The 21-year-old would-be phenom was brought up to the Majors back on May 13th after just six games in Triple-A. Despite a good second game in the bigs—a 3-for-4 night against Cleveland that included his first home run—Kelenic turned out, unsurprisingly, not to be ready for prime time. His first stint in the Majors was 23 games and 92 plate appearances, in which he posted a batting line of .096/.185/.193. He has no hits in his last 40 official at-bats, though he does have five walks over that period.

Promoting Kelenic when they did was an obvious mistake for the Mariners, a decision borne of wishful thinking more than anything tangible. Yes, there are occasionally great players that burst onto the big-league scene with little to no time in the high minors, but they are few and far between and Kelenic turned out to need acclimation time in Triple-A, especially after a 2020 season that had no minor league play. Having only risen to the Double-A level before this year, these last few weeks were the first time he's faced pitchers outside his immediate peer group of teenagers and 20-21-year-olds. Like his fellow rookie Taylor Trammell, Kelenic will be given the chance to relax and find success again under less stressful circumstances and build up experience against competition more like what he'll see in the Majors when he is assuredly returned to Seattle.

Replacing Kelenic on the active roster will be second-baseman/utilityman Shed Long Jr., who at this time last year was seen as a budding star but then fell from favor with a terrible 2020 performance. However, during much of that abbreviated season Long was hampered by injury, and it remains to be seen what a healthy Shed Long Jr. can do with the opportunity. Now recovered from surgery on his tibia to repair a stress fracture, Long spent a week or so on a rehab assignment to Tacoma and played in seven games. That's not a large enough sample size to glean any real information from, but for what it's worth, his batting line in those games was an impressive .323/.417/.516.

Long came to the Mariners in a trade for pitching prospect Josh Stowers prior to the 2019 season. He split that year's campaign between Tacoma and Seattle and posted middling numbers; away from Seattle and TMP, he hit well, batting .324 in 76 PAs, while in 92 PAs at home he mustered only a .214 average. His defense at second base was less than good and he saw a lot of time in left field later in the season. In last year's mini-season, Long played in pain on an undiagnosed leg injury until he fouled a pitch off his shin that ended his season in early September. It's unclear if the foul ball caused the tibia fracture or if it had existed since spring training, when he first felt the leg pain, but it did lead to it being discovered and offered a possible explanation for his terrible .171/.242/.291 season line.

Manager Scott Servais had said last year that Long had improved his defensive abilities at second base, but it wasn't evident in his play; for the moment, one can blame that too on the injured shin, but we'll see how he plays going forward. The plan is to give him the bulk of the innings at that position upon his return, at least against right-hand pitching and at least while Dylan Moore remains on the injured list.


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