Smoak gives Mariners, Wedge some new options

Back from 15-day DL, first baseman hits homer, gives teammates a needed break

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comJune 19, 2013 

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Seattle Mariners made an expected and needed roster move before Tuesday’s game, activating first baseman Justin Smoak from the disabled list and optioning infielder Alex Liddi to Tacoma.

Liddi was told after Monday night’s loss at Angel Stadium. He flew to Colorado Springs, Colo., to join the Tacoma Rainiers.

Smoak caught a flight from Sacramento, where the Rainiers had been playing, to Anaheim in time to be in the starting lineup at first base and bat sixth. He hit a home run in his first at-bat.

Smoak isn’t expected to resuscitate the team’s flailing offense. After all, he was hitting .240 with three homers and eight RBI when he went on the

disabled list. His on-base percentage is a respectable .350, but his slugging percentage is .344.

No, this was a move based on other issues. With Michael Morse limited by a quadriceps strain and Kendrys Morales battling a stiff back, manager Eric Wedge gets an everyday first baseman so he can rest his ailing players and still have a solid defensive presence.

“With Smoak being back here, we’ll be able to give some guys some days off that need it,” Wedge said.

That’s one reason Smoak played in five games on his rehab assignment. General manager Jack Zduriencik, who watched his last two games in Sacramento personally, contacted Wedge after Monday night’s game.

Smoak went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique on June 2, retroactive to May 30.

The Mariners have missed him in the lineup.

“He’s a fantastic first baseman, and he was heading in the right direction offensively before he got hurt,” Wedge said.

Other worries

Of course Smoak’s return doesn’t solve all the Mariners’ problems. Morse was out of the lineup on Tuesday for what Wedge called “a health day.”

Morse did participate in pregame agility drills to prepare him for a return to the outfield. Jason Bay was unavailable with hamstring tightness.

Besides Smoak’s return, oft-injured outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on Saturday.

Zduriencik told Wedge he liked what he saw from Gutierrez in Sacramento.

“Jack saw him last night and said he looked really good,” Wedge said. “I know Gut says he feels normal, so that’s a good sign. And the reports are good on him.”

With outfielder Michael Saunders struggling at the plate, the Mariners could activate Gutierrez and send Saunders to Tacoma.

But because of Gutierrez’s injury history, it’s tough for Wedge to commit to having him in the lineup on a daily basis.

And Ackley … ?

Another outfield option for the Mariners has become Dustin Ackley.

Seattle’s opening day starting second baseman has been playing left field and center field the past five days for Tacoma in an effort to increase his versatility when he returns to the big leagues.

“Jack said he looked really good in left field, but didn’t really have any balls hit to him in center field,” Wedge said. “… And he’s swinging the bat, he’s up there ready to hit. He’s doing what he needs to do … , but we need to give him a little more time.”

Time for what?

“I want him to see a little more time in the outfield in general, whether it be left field or center field,” Wedge said. “Either way, I think it works well. The reps in center field would be a concern right now. We want to make sure he can do that. And I want to make sure what he’s doing up there at home plate mentally is ready as well.”

ON TAP

The third of this four-game series starts at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Angle Stadium of Anaheim. In a duel between left-handers, the Mariners are expected to start Joe Saunders (5-6, 4.80 ERA), seeking his second road win this season, against the Angels’ C.J. Wilson (5-5, 3.90). Root Sports and 710-AM will broadcast the game.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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