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Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez named to AL All-Star team at 21 years old as Seattle’s lone selection

July 10, 2022 Updated Sun., July 10, 2022 at 8:44 p.m.

By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

Watching the joy and enthusiasm that he brings to a baseball field on a daily basis, it seems impossible to believe that the megawatt smile displayed each day from Julio Rodriguez could shine brighter.

But it was apparent on Sunday afternoon, when the Mariners’ precocious rookie center fielder was informed that he was selected for the 2022 American League All-Star Game.

“I got very excited when I found out I was going to be part of the All-Star team,” he said. “It’s feels like a dream. It’s a dream that I had when I was a kid and to be able to achieve that right now in my first year, I’m definitely really excited and proud of the work that I’ve done.”

Coming into Sunday, Rodriguez posted a .274/.335./.480 slash line in 85 games with 17 doubles, two triples, 15 homers, 50 runs scored, 43 RBIs, 25 walks, 96 strikeouts and 21 stolen bases. He has a 3.0 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) and a 3.5 Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement (bWAR).

Among qualified AL outfielders, Rodriguez ranked first in games played (85), stolen bases, tied for third in hits (88), fourth in runs scored, fWAR and bWAR, tied for sixth in doubles, tied for seventh in homers, tied for eighth in homers and 10th in RBIs.

He is third Mariners player age 21 or younger to be named to the All-Star team, the other two were Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, who were named All-Stars at age 20 and 21. The most recent players age 21 or younger to make be named All-Stars were Ronald Acuna and Mike Soroka in 2019, Ozzie Albies and Gleyber Torres in 2018 and Cody Bellinger in 2017.

Rodriguez is the sixth Mariners rookie to be chosen as an All-Star, joining Michael Pineda (2011), Ichiro Suzuki (2001), Alvin Davis (1984), Matt Young (1983) and Ruppert Jones (1977).

After a brilliant spring training and forcing the Mariners to put him on the opening-day roster as the everyday center fielder, Rodriguez, who was considered one of the top prospects in baseball, has still managed to exceed expectations with his play. The Mariners haven’t had a player with this sort of charisma and superstar potential since Griffey.

Admittedly, he didn’t make the All-Star Game on his list of immediate goals, but that doesn’t mean he never considered it.

“Like I always say, I never try to set a limit for myself,” he said. “I feel like I just gotta roll with it, trying to take care of it one day at a time. And I feel like that is just a result that happened for me taking care of every single day.”

Rodriguez immediately called his parents in the Dominican Republic.

“They were pretty happy,” he said. “They were very proud and excited to see me out there.”

As a kid growing up in the Dominican Republic where “you breathe baseball,” Rodriguez remembers watching the midsummer classic each year. But the distinct memory of Robinson Cano hitting the go-ahead solo homer off Cubs closer Wade Davis in the top of the 10th inning of the 2017 All-Star in Miami lingers in his mind.

Cano would be named MVP of the game.

Unfortunately for the Mariners and two of his teammates – first baseman Ty France and starting pitcher Logan Gilbert – Rodriguez was the only player chosen in the players vote and manager selections.

“I feel like we should have a few guys going to the All-Star Game,” Rodriguez said. “Guys like Ty and Logan should be a part of that team.”

But the guys from other teams that will be at Dodger Stadium as All-Stars have Rodriguez’s natural curiosity piqued. He can’t wait to talk to them, including future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols.

“I love it,” he said. “I feel like I’m always out to learn, especially from guys like that. There’s nobody better to learn from than those guys. They actually have been there, they actually have done it. And they’ve had really long careers with a lot of knowledge, so I feel I’m always down to learn. I’ve definitely been looking forward to learning from those guys.”

The snub of France was a bit stunning considering he was a finalist in the fan voting, earning the second highest vote amount in Phase 1 of the All-Star voting and losing out to Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the starting first base spot in Phase 2 of the voting.

While France did miss 12 games with a left elbow strain, he still has the third highest fWAR among AL first baseman at 2.1. He ranks second in batting average (.310), on-base percentage (.384) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.851), weighted runs created (150), third in hits (89), RBIs (45), fourth in slugging percentage (.467) and tied for fifth in doubles (15).

Gilbert, who started on Sunday in the series finale against the Blue Jays, came into the game with a 10-3 record and 2.61 ERA in 17 starts. In 100 innings pitched, he’s struck out 93 with 29 walks with opposing hitters posting a .229/.289/.351 slash line game. The Mariners have a 12-5 record in his 17 starts.

Among AL starters, Gilbert’s 17 starts coming into Sunday were tied for the most in the AL. Only he and Justin Verlander (11) had double-digit wins. He ranked fifth in ERA, tied for fifth in bWAR (2.4), eighth in innings pitched and tied for ninth in fWAR (1.7).

There is a chance that either France or Gilbert could still make the team if a player opts out of playing.

Until then, Rodriguez will be Seattle’s only representative.

When asked if he would participate in the home run derby, something manager Scott Servais probably would prefer that he didn’t, Rodriguez flashed an impish grin, snapping his fingers and saying, “We’ll see.”

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