Servais defends Julio Rodríguez for called strikes

It was only a matter of time before Mariners manager Scott Servais stood up for young Julio Rodriguez.

Servais returned from the COVID-19 disabled list on Tuesday. During his absence and even after his return, Rodriguez struck out with the bat in hand multiple times on pitches outside the strike zone. On Thursday, Servais expressed his frustration with the way umpires have been calling balls and strikes with the Dominican in the batter’s box.

“What is happening right now with Julio Rodríguez is not correct,” said Servais, who also revealed that the Mariners have sent a letter to Major League Baseball about it.

On Thursday, Servais was ejected from the Seattle-Tampa Bay game after Rodriguez’s at-bat against Rays reliever Jalen Beeks. The foreman was initially annoyed with a half swing from the young man who was ruled a strike in the zone, not for the swing. Later, with a maximum count, a change of speed outside the zone (according to Statcast) was called a strike.

Now, Rodríguez has struck out with the bat in his hand 17 times, the most in the major leagues.

The reality is that while he was absent due to COVID, Servais watched Rodriguez’s shifts and was already upset with what he saw from the referees during the ranger’s shifts.

“Very frustrating,” Servais said. “I give all the credit in the world to Julio. Not many people could handle things the way he has. He has not protested. He hasn’t changed his mindset. He’s not throwing balls at them outside the zone.

“But (what happened) is wrong.”

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For his part, Rodríguez was also confused with the half swing that in the end was a strike.

“I thought it was a bad ball,” said the Quisqueyan. “I thought it was ball with the check-swing. Then they said it was strike (sung). I said, ‘Wait. That was a bad pitch.’ Like, it was a terrible pitch. He was high. It was clearly a bad ball. Honestly, I was confused, but when I saw Scott approach, I thought, ‘Well, he’s angry.’ I didn’t even know what to say at the time.”

Rodríguez, who walked to the dugout without protesting, appreciates Servais’ support.

“I feel good about defending myself,” he said. “They’ve been doing that for a while and it felt good to know that he stands up for me.”

However, Rodriguez remains confused as to why he keeps striking out without swinging on pitches out of the zone.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think I did anything wrong. I think I’ve played respectfully, talking to everyone, behaving well. So, I don’t know if they have something against me or what.”

Thursday’s plate umpire, Shane Livernsparger, is a minor league umpire who was brought up on a temporary basis for the Mariners-Rays series. But for Seattle, it’s a bigger issue.

“I am 21 years old. Let him play,” Servais said. “It wasn’t right (Thursday).”

And Rodríguez reiterated what he has expressed during the campaign.

“Let whatever happens happen,” he said. “But I’m going to continue to be myself and continue with my mentality.”

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