Wedge says roles will change if players don’t produce
After watching his Mariners strike out 14 times on Wednesday while losing their fifth straight game despite a two-home run night from Kyle Seager, Eric Wedge sounded like a skipper whose patience was wearing thin.
Wedge has put a lot of faith in some veterans who aren’t producing offensively, with Chone Figgins and Brendan Ryan topping that list. Don’t be surprised if both start losing playing time if they don’t start turning things around quickly.
Figgins’ batting average is down to .198 after going 11-for-74 (.148) over the last 20 games. He’s struck out a team-high 27 times in 91 at-bats, not what you’re looking for in a leadoff hitter.
Ryan is in his own funk, falling to .125 while extending his hitless streak to 26 at-bats on Wednesday.
Mike Carp is ready to return and will get his first start back in Thursday’s season finale, presumably at DH or first base. Munenori Kawasaki hasn’t hit much in the regular season either, but he figures to be the primary option at shortstop unless Wedge decides to give Seager a shot there. But Seager didn’t look that comfortable at shortstop when filling in there at the end of last year, so that might be a last resort.
Wedge said Figgins would start Thursday because of past success against Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann (7-for-14), but that rope is running short.
“It’s not carte blanche here,” Wedge said. “Figgins has numbers off this guy tomorrow so we’ll give him another chance to see if he can get himself going, but it doesn’t last forever. I am patient. It’s a long season and we’re 25 games in and have 130-some odd to play. But ultimately it’s about producing.
“If they’re not getting it done, then we’ll have to change their roles. But the strikeouts are just ridiculous to me right now. These guys are better than that. Whether it be zoning up early or throughout the course of the count or sticking your nose in their with two strikes, this is not going to continue to happen, because we’re not going to let it happen.
“If we have to change the personnel, then so be it. If we have to change the roles, then so be it. But ultimately they’ve got to show me a reason to keep on playing.”
Wedge dropped the slumping Smoak to seventh in the batting order Wednesday. He hit the ball hard twice, but wound up with another frustrating 0-for-3. Smoak at least seems to be making hard contact and just having some tough luck at times, though obviously his .184 is of large concern as well.
But Figgins has failed to back up the early promise shown in his return to the leadoff role, which could soon become Dustin Ackley’s on a regular basis. And Ryan appears lost at the plate, having not gotten a hit since the perfect game by Philip Humber.
“His BP was much better today and I feel like he’s handling himself better from a maturity standpoint,” said Wedge. “But he’s not giving himself much of a chance up there right now with his approach.”
So, yeah, this is a Mariners club looking for answers again in a lot of places offensively. Carp’s return could help, if he can get back to what he was doing last year. Ackley is a better hitter than he’s shown.
Seager is having a breakout season, Jesus Montero looks like a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, Alex Liddi is making the most of his opportunities, Michael Saunders has shown increased power and an improved approach and Ichiro is up to .312.
So there are positives to be found. But Wedge knows this lineup isn’t good enough to give away at-bats all the time. No lineup can withstand three sub-.200 hitters over any length of time or double-digit strikes on a regular basis. So if that doesn’t change, there will be changes.
And it sounds like the clock is ticking.