The time is now for Mariners’ Jake Fraley

By Lauren Smith | McClatchy News Service

SEATTLE — Jake Fraley knows his opportunity to prove he can be an everyday contributor at the big league level for the Seattle Mariners is now.

The 25-year-old spent much of last season ripping his way through the Mariners minor league system before his late August promotion.

Seattle wanted to get a good look at the left-handed outfielder, but he was shut down 12 games into his call-up with a thumb injury after logging just 41 plate appearances — in which he recorded six hits and 14 strikeouts.

The club’s No. 9 prospect, Fraley was expected to make the Opening Day roster out of spring training — he hit .231/.300/.538 with two doubles, two homers and four RBI in 10 appearances before Cactus League games were called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and Mitch Haniger’s ongoing injury issues meant Fraley could be looking at a regular starting job in Seattle’s outfield.

Fraley considered all of that during the three-month Major League Baseball shutdown.

He, his wife and their two young children stayed in Arizona, minutes away from the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, and when it was open, Fraley got cage work in, and took swings against some of Seattle’s up-and-coming pitchers.

When the shortened 60-game season was announced amid the pandemic, Fraley didn’t hesitate to report to camp at T-Mobile Park.

“There’s obviously been a handful of guys that have opted out, and everybody respects that decision,” he said during a video call with reporters Tuesday. “It’s obviously a very tough situation.

“Obviously everybody wants to go out there and play. We all missed the game so much as we were going through all of those tough times when all of this started.”

For Fraley, who is still trying to establish himself as a major leaguer, the decision to play was clear.

“I’m a young guy,” he said. “I’m trying to make a name for myself in this league. The ability for me to do that is to be on the field. That’s not going to happen when I’m sitting on the couch at home. … For me, it wasn’t a tough decision. I want to be out there.”

“To me, it’s been a blessing of a decision that I’ve made, because I’m here, I’m playing, everything’s been going according to plan, and hopefully it continues to do that as we get into these 60 games.”

Fraley had appeared in four of Seattle’s five intrasquad games entering Wednesday, with two hits in his 11 at-bats. He said timing at the plate is one of the last things to come back as the Mariners get back into the routine of playing daily, and he has to be patient with his swing.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said during his Wednesday morning video call with reporters Fraley is planning to get some extra work in this week with Seattle’s hitting coaches.

“I think Jake understands where he’s at in his development, in his opportunity,” Servais said. “His opportunity is now. We want to give him every chance to go out and show us what he can do on the major league stage every day, but we want to make sure he’s in a good spot and swinging at the right pitches, handling balls in different parts of the strike zone.

“It’s going to happen. There’s not one team I’ve ever been on when all of the guys are going well at the plate. Somebody’s always trying to find it or figure it out, so that’s where Jake’s at right now. I’m not concerned at all about him. … He’s doing what he needs to do in this camp, he just wants to get that bat going.”

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