Early season or not, Jarred Kelenic did not particularly enjoy looking up and seeing his batting average on the scoreboard. It's fair to say he doesn't mind nearly as much now.
The second-ranked Mariners prospect doubled twice in his first career four-hit game as Class A West Virginia rolled past Lakewood, 7-1, on Tuesday night at Appalachian Power Park. He drove in a run, walked, stole a base and scored twice, reaching safely in all five plate appearances.
Since beginning the year 2-for-22 with nine strikeouts, Kelenic has 11 hits, including five for extra bases, in his last 20 at-bats with six RBIs in his past four games.
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"The biggest thing was just sticking with my approach," the 19-year-old said. "The stuff I was working on in the batting cage during [batting practice] finally transferred over to the game. I'm seeing the ball well, but on a night like tonight [when the Power had 13 hits], it gets a bit contagious. It was a team effort out there."
After notching four three-hit games during his professional debut last summer, Kelenic recorded another on Thursday. Against Lakewood, MLB.com's No. 54 overall prospect reached on an infield single in the first inning, then walked and stole second in the third before scoring on a double by Onil Pena. He reached on another infield hit in the fourth and doubled to left field and scored in the seventh. Kelenic stroked his second double of the night and fifth of the season to right in the eighth, driving in the Power's final run.
Kelenic has raised his average 209 points in the last five games and is batting .289/.429/.467 with six extra-base hits, six RBIs and seven runs through 12 contests. His 10 walks are tied for second in the South Atlantic League with Orioles No. 17 prospect Cadyn Grenier of Delmarva. Charleston's Kyle Gray leads the circuit with 12.
"Anytime you fail, it's frustrating, but at the same time I was just trying to get comfortable and stick with it," the Wisconsin native said. "There are a lot of variables that contributed to [the slump]. I was getting pitched around a fair deal and when I would get a pitch to hit, I was missing them. I just kept grinding it out while trying to find something that works. I was just hoping to get off to a quick start and carry over what I had done during Spring Training. I just got away from my approach a bit."
Kelenic joined the Mariners in a blockbuster trade that sent All-Stars Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets last December. In addition to Kelenic, the Mariners received No. 3 prospect Justin Dunn and 27th-ranked Gerson Bautista.
Coming off an impressive professional debut in which he batted .286/.371/.468 with 22 extra-base hits and 42 RBIs in 56 games across two levels, the outfielder was anxious to start the season.
"[The trade] was a big shock. I can't think of too many guys who were dealt the same year they were drafted," Kelenic said. "But I'm happy where I'm at. Being able to get my feet wet last year helped a lot coming into this season. I go out there trying to learn something new every day. I learned a lot last year and I'm trying to apply that to this year, but there's always something new to learn."
Even with his numbers back where he's accustomed to, last year's sixth overall Draft pick knows he's potentially a day away from having to start from scratch.
"A lot of factors go into having a game like I did tonight," Kelenic said. "But it's over and done with now. I could go 0-for-4 tomorrow and be back to square one. I just take it one pitch at a time and try and learn something new with each at-bat."
2019 MiLB include
Pena doubled twice, drove in three runs and collected three hits for the second time in four games. Cesar Izturis Jr. doubled, singled scored twice and had two RBIs for the Power.
Starter Clay Chandler (1-0) allowed two hits and four walks while striking out three over six scoreless innings for West Virginia. The 24-year-old has a 0.53 ERA and has held opponents to a .172 batting average through his first three starts.
Lakewood's Jhordany Mezquita (0-2) was reached for four runs on six hits and a walk with five punchouts in 3 2/3 innings. ThePhillies' No. 26 prospect has a 9.31 ERA in three appearances, including two starts, after making the jump from Class A Short Season Williamsport last year.