ARLINGTON, Texas — The Mariners didn’t do batting practice before Saturday’s game at Globe Life Field, so Julio Rodriguez used that time to get on the field and practice for Monday’s home run derby at Dodger Stadium.
With the help of assistant hitting coach Jarret DeHart, who is timing and counting home runs, and first base coach Kristopher Negron, who is also overseeing, Rodriguez and Franmy Peña, who will pitch Rodriguez, simulated the first-round format — three minutes with a 45-second timeout and a 60-second bonus time for a ball hit more than 440 feet per MLB statcast.
Rodriguez simulated the four minutes because he’s going to hit a ball more than 440 feet.
Rodriguez used a custom-painted Victus racquet, which is navy blue with teal lettering, and threw the seats in left field with ease.
“I think he’s going to be fine,” assistant coach Carson Vitale said as he watched.
According to DeHart, Rodriguez took punches from Peña for just over a minute and a half and asked for a timeout. After the break, Rodriguez stepped back into the box and continued his attack on the practice ball basket, sending them into the upper deck in left field with ease.
At times it looked effortless, which is crucial in the home run derby as fatigue often becomes a factor.
“I definitely got a bit tired,” he said. “But it wasn’t that bad.”
At three minutes, Rodriguez took another break and went into the one-minute bonus round, continuing to hit home runs.
Peña, a former minor league infielder/catcher who played in the Rockies and Brewers organizations, is a coach/scout in the Dominican Republic. He helped sign Rodriguez to his first academy when he was 14, where he was discovered by the Mariners.
“He’s throwing money at it,” DeHart said. “It’s all about the pitcher. And he just twists them in the perfect spot.”
How many homers did Rodriguez hit in four minutes?
“Thirty-seven,” DeHart replied with a grin.
That’s an absurd amount considering it was the first time Rodriguez had attempted it.
“It wasn’t bad,” said Rodriguez.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. looked at the records in the new format and hit 29 first-round homers in 2019, only receiving a 30-second bonus. So his 29 home runs came in 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Guerrero also finished 29th in the second round. When Joc Pederson drew level with him that lap, the two men went to a one-minute tiebreak. They each hit eight in that span. In the second tiebreak, which consisted of only three swings, they each hit one. And finally, in the third tiebreak, Guerrero hit two while Pederson hit just one.
Rodriguez’s first-round opponent Corey Seager, also making his debut in the home run derby, hasn’t had any special practice. Seager doesn’t practice batting on the field before games, preferring to do his work in the cage.
According to Rangers media reports, Seager will take his father Jeff in front of him. Jeff Seager was a familiar face at Mariners games and often traveled to see his eldest son Kyle play throughout his 10-year career.
After Seager and Rodriguez hit a homer in Friday’s game, is it already 1-1?
“I’m ready to compete,” Rodriguez said with a grin after the game. “That’s all we do on this side.”
Santana returns from a home visit after a fire
Carlos Santana returned to the Mariners on Saturday after a day’s absence. He was removed from the banned list and returned to the active roster while infielder Kevin Padlo was sent back to Class AAA Tacoma.
While manager Scott Servais couldn’t reveal the details of Friday’s absence, Santana posted a video to Instagram of his Florida home on fire. He also posted some pictures of the damage.
The fire, caused by lightning, broke out in his master bedroom and most of his personal belongings were destroyed.
“Everything is (burned) except that,” he said, holding a Bible. “It wasn’t.”
Luckily for Santana, his family was at their home in Kansas City and wasn’t in danger.
After the Mariners’ win on Thursday, he received a call from his wife and agent about the fire. He immediately spoke to Servais and left to inspect the damage.
“It’s just a game,” Servais said. “It’s our job and nobody is more professional than Carlos, but to understand what was going on with his house is certainly very scary. It’s heartbreaking every time you see this. Every time something like this happens, it takes a while to fix it.”
Lewis feels “pretty good” after playing outfield in Tacoma
Servais said reports of Kyle Lewis playing outfield during his rehab stint have been positive. Lewis started in left field for Triple-A Tacoma Friday night and hit a three-run homer. In eight combined rehab games between Tacoma and High-A Everett, Lewis has six hits, including five homers with 11 RBI, three walks and four strikeouts.
“He reacts very well,” said Servais. “He’s getting used to going outfield. The day after playing outfield he feels pretty, pretty good. So this is all positive. I hope to bring him back into our squad sometime after the break. The reports were very good.”