First baseman Justin Smoak was activated by the Mariners on Tuesday after 20 days on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, with infielder Alex Liddi optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to make room on the 25-man roster.
Smoak hit .238 (5-for-21) with two doubles and one RBI in five rehab games with Tacoma, including a 2-for-5 effort with a double on Monday in Sacramento.
The Mariners can use Smoak’s return, as first baseman Kendrys Morales has been limited to designated hitter duties in recent days by a sore back. Outfielder Michael Morse has also been filling in at first base, but he’s been slowed the past two weeks by a strained quadriceps muscle in his right leg.
“It’s important,” manager Eric Wedge said of Smoak’s return. “He’s a fantastic first baseman and he was heading in the right direction offensively before he got hurt.”
Smoak, 26, was hitting .240 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 46 games before he injured the muscle in his right side on a checked swing on May 25. He made one appearance as a pinch hitter on May 29 before going on the 15-day disabled list.
Smoak’s on-base percentage of .350 is the highest of any Mariners starter other than rookie second baseman Nick Franklin, who has put up a .382 mark in his first 20 games.
Liddi hit .059 (1-for-17) in eight games in limited duty while filling in mostly at first base since being called up from Tacoma on May 29.
Mike Zunino, the third player selected in the 2012 Draft, is being called up by the Mariners on Tuesday to help bolster their short-handed catching situation, according to sources.
The move comes after Jesus Montero and Jesus Sucre both suffered recent injuries, leaving veteran Kelly Shoppach as the only experienced catcher available.
Shoppach, 33, has caught 54 of the 61 innings since Sucre hurt his hand last Tuesday, including every pitch in a 16-inning marathon on Wednesday.
Brandon Bantz, Zunino’s backup at Triple-A Tacoma, was promoted last week and started one game Saturday as the club initially thought Sucre’s absence would be temporary. But Sucre went on the 15-day disabled list Saturday when little progress was being made on his right hand after he’d been hit by a bat on a backswing.
Zunino, 22, has hit .238 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs in 47 games for Tacoma this year, with a .303 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage.
Zunino was drafted out of the University of Florida last year and is regarded as one of the premier catching prospects in baseball.
Montero opened the season as Seattle’s starting catcher, but was demoted to Tacoma two weeks ago and then underwent surgery this past week after tearing the meniscus in his right knee. He’s expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Zunino is flying from Las Vegas to meet the Mariners and is expected to arrive in time to be available for Tuesday night’s game against the Astros. No roster move will be made official until then and the club still hasn’t officially announced anything.
It seems likely that Bantz will be sent back down to Tacoma to make room for Zunino and provide some help for a Rainiers team that is thin at catcher as well, with Jason Jaramillo, a 30-year-old journeyman with three at-bats for the Rainiers being the only backstop on that roster at the moment.
Sometimes there are days and scenes that remind us there are more important things going on than just baseball games and wins and losses. And yesterday was one of those at Safeco Field, when Sophia Robinson and her family came to meet some Mariners.
Sophia is a 4-year-old with a heart disease and the Make-A-Wish program set up a pregame gathering at Safeco Field so she and her family could hang out with some players as they prepared for the evening’s game with the Astros.
Of course, when it came to actually talking to players, Sophia — like most 4-year-olds — turned shy and and clung to her parents. Or played in the dirt on the first base line. So Felix Hernandez, who is great with kids, simply got down and played in the dirt with her.
It was a cool scene and it played out again after Felix left and Michael Morse came along and then Kyle Seager. Morse, all 6-foot-5, 245 pounds of him, made friends with Sophia as well and Seager — who had a heart condition of his own as a child — spent a long time talking to the parents (pictured above).
Best of all, to me, was the fact the players got down to Sophia’s level and found a connection. It was a great reminder that we’re all in this together.
First baseman Justin Smoak was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday as the Mariners created a spot on their 25-man Major League roster for right-hander Jeremy Bonderman.
Bonderman was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and will be the starting pitcher in Sunday’s series finale with the Twins, making his first Major League appearance since Oct. 1, 2010 with the Tigers.
Infielder Vinnie Catricala was designated for assignment to make room for Bonderman on the 40-man roster.
Smoak has been out a week since feeling tightness in the oblique muscle in his right side on May 25 against the Rangers. He did pinch hit on Wednesday against the Padres, so his DL stint will be retroactive to that date and will leave him sidelined until June 14.
Also, the Mariners have traded young infielder Francisco Martinez back to the TIgers for a player to be named or cash. Martinez was designated for assignment last week.
The veteran right-hander has been recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and will start Sunday’s 11:10 a.m. PT game against the Twins’ Scott Diamond. The Mariners will have to make a roster move to add Bonderman both to their 25-man Major League roster as well as their 40-man roster.
Alex Liddi seems the likely candidate to get sent back to Tacoma to make room on the 25-man. Liddi was brought up to provide insurance at first base with Justin Smoak and Michael Morse both sidelined, but he’s yet to play as Kendrys Morales has capably filled the first base duties.
Manager Eric Wedge said he hopes Smoak can return on Sunday against Twins lefty Scott Diamond, since his right oblique injury doesn’t hamper his right-handed swing. Morse is likely another day or two away from returning from a strained quad.
As for Bonderman, Wedge said the eight-year veteran is eager to get a return shot at the Majors after sitting out the past two seasons while having surgeries on his shoulder and elbow. Bonderman signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners last winter and competed for a rotation spot in spring, but wasn’t quite ready and spent the first two months at Tacoma.
“He’s under control, but you can tell he’s excited to be here,” Wedge said. “For a 30-year-old, he’s been through so much. He’s worked so hard to get back here, that’s been evident here for the last year. So good for him. He deserves the opportunity.”
Bonderman went 2-4 with a 4.52 ERA in 11 starts in Tacoma, pitching better as he went in his first regular-season action since his last start with the Tigers on Oct. 1, 2010 at Baltimore.
“It’s been good for him to be down there and pitch every fifth day,” Wedge said. “He’s been pretty consistent down there. His arm’s been good, his stuff’s been good. It’s just a matter of how it translates up here, really.”
After staying behind in Seattle to treat a strained right quadriceps muscle while the Mariners played a pair of games in San Diego, right fielder Michael Morse rejoined the club on Friday at Target Field in time for a three-game set with the Twins.
Morse isn’t ready to play just yet, however, and was not in the lineup for Friday’s series opener.
“It’s better,” he said. “I can hit. I can do everything. The one thing I feel is running. It’s just sore, a little tight. It’s not a pulled feeling anymore. If it was up to me, I’d give it one or two more days and I’ll be fine.”
Morse, who leads the team with 11 home runs, injured the leg while trying to score from first on a double by Michael Saunders in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to the Padres at Safeco Field.
“To me it’s such a fluke thing,” said the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder. “I felt so good. I’ve taken really good care of my legs and I felt great in the outfield. I felt really good running, especially right there I felt great. I just tried to push it a little too much. I compare it to like driving a car and red-lining a car. You just don’t do that. I tried to run a little faster and I’m not fast, so I don’t know what I was doing.”
Morse, 31, spent Wednesday and Thursday getting treatment at Safeco Field and watching his teammates split a pair in San Diego.
“I was actually in the clubhouse and it was weird because no one else was in there and I was just doing rehab stuff,” he said. “Every time we started getting on a roll, I didn’t move. That first game was frustrating, but [Thursday] was a nice game to watch.”
Morse hit off a tee while in Seattle and said everything felt fine swinging the bat. Now he just needs to be able to run full speed to return to the lineup. He’s hitting .254 with 21 RBIs in 45 games.
First baseman Justin Smoak also remained sidelined Friday with a sore oblique muscle. Smoak said he’s still not able to swing full-out left-handed, thus is not in the lineup against right-hander Mike Pelfry.
After the Mariners sent Dustin Ackley down to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday, manager Eric Wedge drew considerable heat for a comment about the struggling second baseman’s mindset at the plate being affected by the growing focus on sabermetrics.
“It’s the new generation,” Wedge said that day as part of several lengthy answers to questions on Ackley’s struggles. “It’s all this sabermetrics stuff, for lack of a better term, you know what I mean? People who haven’t played since they were 9 years old think they have it figured out. It gets in these kids’ heads.”
Wedge was asked about the comment Wednesday and said he uses sabermetics and statistical analysis all the time, but feels hitters need to maintain an aggressive mindset at the plate and not get overly caught up in working deep into counts in an attempt to bolster their on-base percentages.
“Hey, I use the numbers as much as anybody,” Wedge said. “I used the numbers in Cleveland. And Cleveland was one of the first teams to really dive into it with Mark Shapiro leading the way. So I’ve always been a big fan of using the numbers.
“But you are talking about one comment and they weren’t there for the entire conversation. We were talking about the mental side of it. We were talking about Ackley. That’s not the reason Ackley was having issues at home plate. What I’m talking about is this recent generation of players that has come up in the sabermetrics world. It’s something that’s out there and people know how important it is.
“What you can’t do is play this game with fear. You have to go out there and play and when you get your first good pitch to take a whack at, you have to take a whack at it. People stress so much getting deeper in counts and drawing walks, it’s almost a backward way of looking at it.”
Wedge feels the issue took on a life of its own because he poked the sabermetric bear.
“When I bust somebody’s chops or make a joke at it, you can take it in a light-hearted way or you can take it personally,” he said. “Quite frankly, I don’t care either way. But the fact of the matter is, sabermetrics is a part of the game of baseball. It has been for a while. It’s my job to see it from all ways.
“What people have to see is these are human beings. They are not widgets. It’s not XYZ corporation – something out of a book. These are human beings. And that’s the thing you have to factor in the most. They have emotions. They have families. You have ups and downs and everything that goes a long with it. Things you can’t read on a piece of paper.
“But it’s most definitely part of it. I use it each and every day. It’s not the end all. It’s not just black and white. It’s got to be a nice blend between the human factor and the numbers. You have to be able to go out there and motivate these guys and treat them as human beings as well. So for those who I offended, I’m sorry about that. One thing you have to have in this game is broad shoulders and a thick skin. That’s something that is part of it, too.”
Wedge said he’d never heard Ackley talk about sabermetrics or that approach, but believes most players are exposed to the thought that it’s critical to work counts and draw walks as opposed to going up ready to hit first and that makes some players too passive.
“The internet and everything else, the information that’s out there, they’re human beings, too,” he said. “If you’re on it, they’re on it, too, I’m sure. You hear all the baseball experts say you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. Again, there’s a way to go about doing it where you can have the best of both worlds. You’ve got to be ready to hit. You can be both ready to hit be disciplined at the same time. That’s the mental approach.
“I’m all about getting on base, but I’m about hitting, too. People have to understand: You can’t go up there looking for a walk and expect to be a big-leaguer very long. Nobody’s stayed up here by just walking. You’ve got to hit, too. You can get deep in the count all you want, but eventually you have to hit. It’s just not a black and white thing like some people think. I can’t explain it any better than that.”
Infielder Alex Liddi has been recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and is with the Mariners in San Diego on Wednesday, though his arrival has not yet been officially announced by the team.
To make room on the 25-man roster, rookie pitcher Brandon Maurer will be optioned to Tacoma. Maurer, 22, has been in the rotation all season, but went 2-7 with a 6.93 ERA in 10 starts.
The Mariners will need another starter to take his place by Sunday in Minnesota. They could use reliever Hector Noesi to fill that role as he’s already on the roster, or right-hander Jeremy Bonderman could be promoted from Tacoma.
Bonderman was pulled from his Tuesday start for the Rainiers after allowing one run on five hits in four innings. The 30-year-old veteran is 2-4 with a 4.52 ERA in 11 starts with Tacoma and has an opt-out date on his Minor League contract approaching at the end of the month.
Liddi, 24, was batting .267 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs in 50 games for Tacoma. He provides some roster relief at first base, third base or in the outfield for a Mariners club that is temporarily without first baseman Justin Smoak and outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse due to minor injuries.
Neither Smoak nor Morse is on the disabled list, but Morse remained behind in Seattle due to a strained quadriceps, while Smoak is scheduled to take batting practice Wednesday for the first time since feeling tightness in his right oblique muscle last Saturday.
Liddi played 53 games for Seattle in 2011-12, batting .224 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 53 games. The native of Sanremo, Italy, is the first Italian born and raised player to play in the Majors.
Things continue to get interesting on the Mariners roster world as young infielder Nick Franklin was selected from Triple-A today and second baseman Dustin Ackley was optioned to Tacoma.
The Mariners also recalled right-hander Hector Noesi and optioned lefty reliever Lucas Luetge back to Tacoma.
Noesi’s move provides some long relief as well as a starting option in case Aaron Harang falters again in today’s 1:05 p.m. game with the Padres at Safeco Field, or if Brandon Maurer struggles again Tuesday against the Padres.
The Franklin move is bigger, however, as it signifies a change in approach with Ackley. As the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Ackley is a youngster considered at the heart of the rebuilding process.
But he had a rough year last season when he hit just .226 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs and he’s looked even more lost this year as he’s batted .205 with one homer and eight RBIs in 45 games.
Ackley is a far better player than that, so something is clearly wrong. Whether it’s physical or mental remains to be seen, but some time in Tacoma can’t hurt at this point. In my mind, this is a guy who should hit .280 with speed and some pop, but he’s shown none of that this year.
As for Franklin, we’ll see. He’s a 22-year-old with a lot of confidence and is himself a late first-round pick in ’09 out of high school in Florida. He’s had some bumps along the way, but has progressed up the Minor League ladder the last few years and was hitting .324 with four homers and 24 RBIs in 39 games in Triple-A this year.
The Mariners now have both Franklin and Carlos Triunfel on the Major League roster, along with veteran shortstop Brendan Ryan. How Eric Wedge divvies up the playing time with that trio in the middle infield remains to be seen, but Ryan has been hitting pretty well lately and obviously is the superior shortstop.
I’d guess Franklin will get a lot of time at second base, with Triunfel backing him up and also splitting time at shortstop.
At 21-29, the Mariners are making changes two months into the season. I wouldn’t call it a youth movement, since Jesus Montero and Ackley — two of their top young players — have been sent down. But they’re clearly not going to sit pat and they’re willing to give Franklin and Triunfel a look now, as well as Jesus Sucre at catcher.
It seems only a matter of time before Mike Zunino gets a shot there. Sucre has handled himself well in his two starts so far, but Zunino is much more of an offensive threat in the long term and obviously the club is moving forward on many fronts. So we’ll wait and see on that one as well.
Manager Eric Wedge moved some pieces around in his lineup Wednesday in an effort to get a new look against Angels southpaw C.J. Wilson and change things up in the face of a five-game losing streak that hit bottom with Tuesday’s 12-0 loss to the Halos.
Left fielder Jason Bay moved into the leadoff spot for just the second time in his career, the first coming April 26 against the Angels when he went 1-for-4 in a 6-3 loss at Safeco Field.
Michael Saunders, who has hit just .125 (4-for-32) while leading off on the road trip, dropped into the No. 2 spot. And with Kyle Seager getting his first day off after starting 29 games in a row, Michael Morse was hitting third for the first time this year after spending 31 games batting cleanup and then the past eight games hitting fifth.
“Just shaking it up against the left-hander and giving the guys a different look,” Wedge said. “Every now and again I think you need to do that. And we’re giving Kyle a much-needed day off. I’m trying to domino that with an off day tomorrow, too.”
Wedge said Saunders has been trying to do too much at the plate recently and needs to get back to the approach that had him hitting .286 coming into this road trip. That number has fallen to .235.
“I don’t think it’s fatigue,” Wedge said. “I think he’s expanded the zone a little from time to time. When he stays within his zone, he does damage. I think he’s just expanded his zone, trying to do a little too much. We’re at our best when these guys are willing and able to set the bat down and take a walk and let the next guy get a shot at it. When they try to do too much or get a little greedy up there, that’s when you get in trouble.”
As for Morse in the three-hole?
“He’s had some success against Wilson and I wanted to give our guys a different look and give them a different look, too,” Wedge said. “Rework the dynamics with him and [Morales] and see how it plays out. We’ll get him up there in the first inning and see what happens.”
Here’s the full lineups for today’s 4:05 p.m. series finale: