Franklin sent down to find swing

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.comJune 4, 2014 

ATLANTA — Struggling infielder Nick Franklin, hitless in his past 16 at-bats, is heading back to Triple-A Tacoma in an effort to recapture his swing.

The Seattle Mariners optioned Franklin, 23, to the Rainiers before Tuesday’s game in order to clear roster space for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, whom they recalled from Tacoma.

Ramirez started Tuesday’s series opener against the Atlanta Braves. He allowed eight hits and five runs in three innings, but the Mariners rallied to win, 7-5. Ramierz walked one and struck out four.

As for Franklin, he isn’t just slumping, he often isn’t even making contact. He struck out in nine of his last 13 at-bats before being sent down. His average is down to .128, hitting 6-for-47 in 17 games, including 14 starts.

Manager Lloyd McClendon chose to use Franklin’s demotion to emphasize the need for positive results from everyone on the roster.

“I just told him to go down and play,” McClendon said. “If you get an opportunity to come back, when you get that opportunity, you’ve got to produce.

“That’s one of the messages I’m trying to send to every individual in our organization: This is not a country club. You have to have positive results here. That’s just the way it is.”

This marks Franklin’s third tour this season at Tacoma, where he has compiled a .376/.481/.633 slash (batting average, on-base and slugging percentage) in 30 games. He also has seven homers and 26 RBIs.

“I don’t have the answer,” McClendon said. “I really don’t. He was striking out at an alarming rate. This is a game of adjustments, particularly at this level. You’ve got to be able to make adjustments.”

SEAGER CLEANING UP

Third baseman Kyle Seager, coming off a career night, shifted to cleanup in Tuesday’s lineup by shifting slots with first baseman Justin Smoak, who is in a 7-for-57 slide (.123) over the past 15-plus games.

“I’m doing everything I can to get Robby (Cano) the best protection,” McClendon said. “Smokie’s in a little bit of a funk right now. Hopefully, he’ll come out of it soon.”

The switch meant the Mariners offered four left-handed hitters atop their lineup in James Jones, Michael Saunders, Cano and Seager.

“We are what we are,” McClendon said. “Get them early and hold on.”

Those plans were a bust. The Mariners fell into an early four-run hole before rallying to win, and Seager went hitless in five at-bats.

The move didn’t help Smoak, either. He also went 0-for-5.

Seager gained the promotion by hitting .405 (15-for-37) over the previous 10 games. The move came the day after he tied a franchise record by getting four extra-base hits in one game.

“It’s a pretty similar position — four or five,” Seager said. “Anytime you’re in the middle of the order, it has a little different feel to it. It’s not too much of an adjustment, approach-wise.

“Hitting closer to Cano is obviously going to be a good thing.”

McClendon believes Smoak’s slump stems from being too passive.

“I just think he needs to be a little more aggressive,” McClendon said. “Attack early in the count a little bit more. When you’re not feeling good, the worst thing you can do is get one swing per at-bat.

“It’s hard to hit that way. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let it fly.”

FOUR-IN-ONE

One final look at Seager’s big Monday night in New York, when he matched a franchise record by getting four extra-base hits in a 10-2 victory over the New York Yankees.

Seager had two triples, a double and homer — which he called, “a good day, for sure.” He was just the sixth player in Mariners history to get four extra-base hits in a game. The feat was actually accomplished seven times, since Adrian Beltre did it twice.

Seager is the first player in Mariners history to hit a homer and two triples in the same game. (If you’re wondering, Monday was the 5,926th game in franchise history.)

No American League player had a game with two triples and at least one double and one homer since Detroit outfielder Hoot Evers did it on Sept. 7, 1950 in a 13-13 tie with Cleveland that was called after 10 innings.

Plus, Seager is the first visiting player in 100 years to get two triples and four extra-base hits against the Yankees. (That covers more than 8,000 games.)

Here’s the list of previous Mariners with four extra-base hits in a game:

 • Mike Blowers on May 24, 1995: two doubles, one triple, one homer in a 15-6 victory over the Red Sox.

 • Ken Griffey Jr. on July 1, 1998: three doubles, one homer in a 9-5 victory over the Rockies.

 • Mike Cameron on May 2, 2002: four homers in a 15-4 victory over the White Sox.

 • Adrian Beltre on May 28, 2007: two doubles, two homers in a 12-5 victory over the Angels.

 • Raul Ibañez on June 11, 2007: one double, one triple, two homers in an 8-7 victory over the Indians.

 • Adrian Beltre on July 6, 2007: two doubles, two homers in a 7-1 victory over the Athletics.

MINOR STARS

Double-A Jackson placed shortstop Ketel Marte and right-handed pitcher Stephen Kohlscheen on the North Division team for the Southern League All-Star Game, which is June 17 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Marte, 20, is batting .304 with 30 runs in 53 games. A switch-hitter, his 66 hits are tied for second in the Southern League. A native of the Dominican Republic, he was signed in 2010 as a 16-year-old.

Kohlscheen, 25, has a 1.29 ERA in 20 games as the Generals’ closer. He was the Mariners’ 45th round selection in 2010 out of Auburn.

MINOR AWARDS

High Desert swept the weekly awards for May 26 to June 1 in the Advanced-A California League when third baseman D.J. Peterson and left-hander Tyler Pike were chosen as player and pitcher of the week.

Peterson, 22, went 14-for-30 with two homers and seven RBIs. Pike, 20, pitched six innings in a combined no-hitter against Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers).

SHORT HOPS

Trainer Rick Griffin, in his 32nd season, will work his 5,000th game Wednesday as the Mariners conclude their series against the Braves. … The Mariners have 15 triples this season after getting two from Seager on Monday. They finished last season with 17 triples. … The Mariners suffered a three-game sweep at Miami in their only previous interleague games of the season. … The Braves come to Safeco Field for two games on Aug. 5-6. … The Mariners’ win broke a five-game losing streak against the Braves, who hold a 6-4 edge in the all-time series.

ON TAP

The Mariners conclude their brief stay in Atlanta at 9:10 a.m. (PDT) on Wednesday at Turner Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (3-2, 3.09 ERA) will pitch against Braves lefty Mike Minor (2-3, 3.41).

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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