Patrick Kivlehan was in the Dominican Republic playing winter ball when a text from an unrecognizable number hit his cell phone. The message was from Jerry Dipoto, the Seattle Mariners general manager, who asked the former Rutgers baseball and football player to give him a call “ASAP.”
“I’m like, ‘Oh man, something’s going on because the GM doesn’t just text you like that,” Kivlehan recalled of the Dec. 2 trade that sent him to Texas.
Without cell service to make an outgoing call, Kivlehan was forced to scramble to borrow a phone and when he did the news came as a surprise.
“It was a quick 3-minute conversation where he told me I had been traded to the Rangers to complete a deal,” Kivlehan said. “He gave me the number of the (official from) the Rangers to call and the guy gave me a run down of what was going on. It was kind of crazy after that because I couldn’t call anybody since I didn’t have cell service. It was kind of a whirlwind, but I got through it.”
After slugging 22 home runs and batting .256 in 518 plate appearances at the Triple-A level last summer, Kivlehan impressed enough people in the Seattle organization to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.
Now entering his fifth year of professional career after a four-year career playing for the Rutgers football team and one season spent starring for the Scarlet Knights baseball squad, Kivlehan fully expected to make the Mariners’ big-league club this spring.
As he gets set to leave for Texas’ Spring Training camp next week, Kivlehan has the same goal.
“It’s going to be different,” said Kivlehan, a fourth-round pick by the Mariners in the 2012 Major League Baseball First-year Player Draft after hitting for a Triple Crown and earning Big East Player of the Year honors in his lone campaign on the diamond at Rutgers. “I’m excited. I kind of look at it like it’s a fresh start. Obviously I’ve done some things to put me in this position, but now I’m on the 40-man roster and I’m excited to get going. I feel like I’ve paid my dues. I worked my way all the way up. I wasn’t one of those guys who had a spot on the 40-man roster as soon as I was drafted. I had to work my way up the entire way. I feel like I’ve made a good impression on everyone.
“I feel like now I’m not just known as ‘the football player’ anymore. I’ve made my name as a baseball player, and I feel like now’s the time to start making some real moves and see what happens.”
If he makes it, the 26-year old right-handed slugger figures to fit in as a utility player who can play third base, first base and all three outfield positions.
“I carry all three gloves with me,” said Kivlehan, who boasts a .288 batting average, with 70 home runs, 99 doubles, 16 triples and 318 RBI in 416 games at all three Minor League levels. “I think if I do make it it’s going to be more of a platoon guy, a right-handed guy off the bench, because they have a lot of lefties.”
While he was rated as Seattle’s fifth-best prospect at the time of his trade, Kivlehan now ranks 18th according to MLB.com’s organizational ratings.
Still, he’s projected to climb his way to the Texas Rangers at some point, according to MLB.com’s scouting report, which notes:
“As a college football player at Rutgers who didn’t return to baseball until his senior year of college, winning the Big East Triple Crown in the process, Kivlehan has followed one of the more unusual paths to pro ball. … While he might be older than the average prospect at his level, he’s not, in terms of experience. The more he’s played, the more rust Kivlehan has knocked off to reach Triple-A in 2015. … He’s a good athlete with average speed, but his fringy arm strength and range limit his defensive value. He earns raves for his makeup, which, along with his power, should help him find his way to the big leagues in the near future.”
A West Nyack, N.Y., native who played baseball and football at St. Joseph-Montvale before earning a scholarship to play defensive back for the Scarlet Knights, Kivlehan has come a long way since batting .392, slugging 14 home runs and stealing 24 bases in his lone season playing for the Scarlet Knights in 2012.
“I think mentally is where I’ve grown the most,” he said. “When you’re in the lowest levels of the minors, it’s just (pitchers) trying to blow everything by you, trying to make the radar pop at the highest number. But as you make your way up to the Triple A level it’s more experienced guys who are smarter in the way they pitch. They don’t just throw a 2-0 fastball down the middle. They’ll throw any pitch in any count, and they really don’t make too many mistakes in a good location, so you might get only one pitch to hit and you have to do something with it.”