NEW YORK — Steven Souza Jr.’s childhood dream has become a reality.
Souza, an Everett native and Cascade High School alum, was called up by the Seattle Mariners on Friday and was in the team’s lineup in right field against the New York Mets.
Souza will see the bulk of the starts in that spot. He was batting .267 with five doubles, five home runs, 17 RBI, three stolen bases and 19 walks in 22 games with Triple-A Tacoma this season. Souza signed a split contract this season, meaning he will make $1 million with this call-up.
“I think a lot of my family always asks me if I wanted to come back and I know they’ve (Mariners) pursued a bunch of different avenues to try and get me here and it’s never really happened,” Souza told The Athletic in March. “I always thought that it would be a cool experience at the back half of my career to come back to play at home.”
“He’s been wanting to be a Mariner forever,” said manager Scott Servais in spring training.
Now, it seems, Souza will get that opportunity.
The promotion of Souza came at the expense of Jarred Kelenic, who won’t face the team that drafted him and traded him to the Mariners.
On the one-year anniversary of his MLB debut and hours before the Mariners were set to take on the New York Mets, Kelenic was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. It was one of eight total roster moves made by the Mariners before the start of this three-city, 10-game road trip.
The other moves:
— Souza Jr. (No. 21), OF, selected from Triple-A Tacoma.
— Sergio Romo, RHP, reinstated from 10-day injured list.
— Mike Ford (No. 70), INF, reports to club.
— Adrian Sampson, RHP, claimed off waivers from Chicago-NL.
— Danny Young, LHP, optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
— Stuart Fairchild, OF, optioned to Triple-A Tacoma and designated for assignment.
— Yohan Ramirez, RHP, designated for assignment.
Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners president of baseball operations, said Thursday on his weekly radio show on Seattle Sports 710-AM that roster moves were coming after a 2-5 homestand that sunk the Mariners to a 14-18 record.
Kelenic, 22, appeared in 30 games with the Mariners this season, posting a .140/.218/.291 slash line with two doubles, a triple, three home runs, 10 RBI, four stolen bases and nine walks.
“I don’t expect players to be happy when things like that don’t go their way,” Servais said. “He’s off to a rough start, but I would say he was very mature. He understands where he’s at. I think stepping back right now is the right thing and he understands it. He wasn’t totally shocked.”
As Kelenic continued to struggle over the last dozen games, the Mariners started limiting his plate appearances vs. tough left-handed pitching in hopes that success vs. right-handed pitching could get him going. It didn’t happen.
“It just wasn’t free and easy,” Servais said.
Over his last 16 games played (12 starts), Kelenic posted a .105/.209/.211 slash line with a double, a homer, three RBI, five walks and 16 Ks in 43 PAs.
The strikeouts and his inability to hit with two strikes became a major issue. In two-strike counts, Kelenic had just three hits in 52 plate appearances, posting a .059/.077/.078 slash line with one walk and 36 strikeouts.
“We just felt like, he’s 22 years old, he’s got a lot of baseball in front of him, so let’s do the right thing for him and for our team right now and give him a chance to breathe,” said assistant general manager Justin Hollander, who was in New York to help make the roster moves. “Just give guys a chance to reset and feel good about what they’re doing. Get some positive results, get the momentum going back in the right direction. I think that he has higher aspirations for what kind of player he can be.”
This is the second time that Kelenic’s struggles at the MLB level have forced the Mariners to send him down to Tacoma for a reset to find his swing, approach and confidence.
After making his debut on May 13, 2021, he played in 23 games, posting a .096/.185/.193 with two doubles, two homers, six RBI, eight walks and 26 strikeouts. At the time of his demotion, he was mired in an 0-for-39 stretch (44 plate appearances) that included five walks and 17 strikeouts.
“His reaction last year was much different than it was today,” Servais said. “He has a much more mature understanding of where the team is and where he’s at. He wants to be a big part of this team. He know he’s got to get going in the right direction.”
How long will Kelenic be in Tacoma?
“There’s not a timeline in mind,” Hollander said. “There’s not a day on the calendar and he was adamant he didn’t want that either. He didn’t want to set a day on the calendar and say, ‘I’m gonna go down for X number of days and then I’ll be ready.’ He said, ‘I need to go down and I need to play and I rediscover that I’m good again. And I’ll be back and I’m really confident that I can go do that.’”
The 39-year-old Romo will provide some help in leverage situations. After two scoreless appearances, he was placed on the 10-day injured list (right shoulder inflammation) on April 13 (retroactive to April 12). The right-hander made one major league rehab appearance with Triple-A Tacoma, tossing an inning on May 10. In two appearances with Seattle this season, Romo is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA (0 ER, 2.0 IP) with three strikeouts.
Ford, 29, was re-acquired from San Francisco in exchange for cash considerations after he was traded by the Mariners to the Giants in exchange for cash considerations on April 30. He was in the lineup as the DH on Friday.
Sampson, 30, is a Skyline grad and had a brief stint with the Mariners in 2016. He will report to Triple-A Tacoma.
Fairchild, 26, appeared in three games with Seattle this season after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on April 30. He was acquired in a trade from Arizona in exchange for cash considerations on April 23.
Young, 27, made his major league debut with Seattle on May 9 vs. Philadelphia, tossing 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing three hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
Ramirez, 27, made Seattle’s opening day roster and was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on April 28. He appeared in seven games, posting a 1-0 record with a 7.56 ERA with six walks and 10 strikeouts in 8.1 innings pitched.