The big news of the day was obviously the Ichiro trade. Emotions were high, both positive and negative. Many Seattle sports fans have grown to love Ichiro over the past decade, even with his diva personality getting in the way at times.
This post isn’t about Ichiro. It’s about the Mariners sending Justin Smoak, their stating first baseman to Triple-A Tacoma to work on his offense while Mike Carp takes his spot on the 25-man roster.
Everyone wants Smoak to be the hitter they thought they were getting when they traded a Cy Young caliber pitcher, Cliff Lee, to Texas. In his brief career in Seattle Smoak has mostly disappointed. Although he leads the Mariners in home runs with 13, the bat just isn’t anything close to resembling a big-league first baseman.
A typical first baseman doesn’t have a batting average under .200, as Smoak does, .189. What makes the move more necessary is that Smoak has actually been worse in July, batting .141.
“I think everybody has seen what’s going on,” Smoak said after learning of the decision from Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik. “It’s one of those things where you go down there and get your work in and get back to where I was a couple months ago.
“It’s a matter of getting that feel and finding something day-in and day-out that gets you to where you want to be.”
Smoak was the American League Player of the Week in late May and hit five home runs in a 10-game stretch at one point, but hasn’t put things together as the Mariners hoped this year at the plate.
“I believe in Justin Smoak. I believe he’s going to be a part of this,” Wedge said. “But right now we feel this is the right thing to do for him.”
Carp just finished a 20-day Minor League injury rehab with Tacoma and will be activated off the disabled list after recovering from a lingering shoulder issue. He’s been playing first base with the Rainiers and went 1-for-4 on Monday, putting his average at .220 in 15 rehab games with Tacoma.
The Mariners have one other roster addition to make as well, as Ichiro Suzuki’s trade on Monday put the 25-man roster at 24 even before Smoak’s demotion.
Wedge said the chance to work in a less-stressful situation could help Smoak find the stroke he’s been looking for as a powerful switch-hitter who was regarded as one of baseball’s top hitting prospects when acquired by trade from the Rangers in 2010.
Smoak understands that, though he clearly was shaken by the decision.
“You never want to get sent down,” Smoak said. “You’re definitely not happy. But it’s something you’ve got to go through sometimes to get where you want to be.