Tyler Smith’s moment finally arrived Friday when an injury to shortstop Jean Segura forced the Mariners into another roster realignment. They needed a utility infielder. Smith got the call from Triple-A Tacoma.
Then made the most of it.
Smith replaced second baseman Robinson Cano in the eighth inning of a 12-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field. Smith had an uneventful defensive inning before coming to bat with one out later in the frame.
He lashed a double into the left-field corner against hard-throwing reliever Ryne Stanek. Smith took a deep breath through a wide smile as he reached second base while the Mariners bench signaled for the ball to serve as memento.
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"The emotions, I can’t even describe," Smith said. "I’ve been working my whole life to get to this point. I wouldn’t have guessed it would have happened in my first at-bat, to get that first hit and get it out of the way.
"It was definitely a big sigh of relief. From grinding through the minors, grinding through college ball, I didn't know I would get here. It’s just a great feeling."
With Taylor Motter ticketed to serve as Segura’s primary replacement, Smith slides into Motter’s regular role as the roster’s utilityman.
For how long is uncertain. Segura has a high ankle sprain. Typically, that injury sidelines a player for about a month, although club officials expect to have a better timetable once the swelling recedes. That should take about a week.
For Smith, it’s a good fit. While primarily a shortstop in four-plus seasons since his selection in the 2013 MLB Draft, he has logged significant time at second base while also recording 112 innings at third base.
"You’re going to see him out there," manager Scott Servais said. "We’re going to continue to play Motter, but we’ll give Smitty some shots as well at shortstop."
***Saturday’s pitching matchup is rookie right-hander Sam Gaviglio (1-1 with a 3.50 ERA) against Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Cobb (4-4 and 3.67). The game starts at 7:10 p.m. and can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Gaviglio is making fifth career appearance and fourth start. He got his first big-league victory in his previous start, when he pitched five-plus innings in a 6-5 victory at Colorado.
***Cobb had a 2.95 ERA (13 earned runs in 39 1/3 innings) in his last six starts. He is 2-3 with a 5.28 ERA in six career starts against the Mariners, but 1-1 and 3.72 in three starts at Safeco Field.
***Robinson Cano is 8-for-23 with three homers in his career against Cobb, but most of the other Mariners haven’t done much. Nelson Cruz is 3-for-17, Kyle Seager is 2-for-9, Jarrod Dyson is 0-for-8 and Danny Valencia is 0-for-6.
***The Mariners have won five of their last six after a 1-7 skid. The Rays have won 10 of their last 16 and have won five straight road series.
***Mariners leadoff hitters lead the majors with a .326 average. Most of that is due to Segura (.341). Ben Gamel replaced Segura on Friday as the leadoff hitter and went 2-for-5.
***The first 20,000 fans through the gates Saturday receive a Nelson Cruz bobblehead doll, courtesy of Root Sports.
***The Mariners’ bullpen has a 1.43 ERA over the last 12 games.
***Smith became the seventh rookie position player used this season by the Mariners. That’s the most in the majors.
***The Rays have 18 homers in seven games on their current road trip, which concludes Sunday. They lead the majors with 86 homers.
It was eight years ago Saturday — June 3, 2009 — that Ichiro Suzuki extended his hitting streak to 27 games by going 1-for-3 in a 3-2 walk-off victory over Baltimore in 10 innings at Safeco Field.
That remains the longest hitting streak in franchise history.
Suzuki batted .398 (47-for-118) during the run, which began May 6, with eight doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners