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Mariners Notebook: Smoak to return next week

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By Kirby Arnold
Herald Writer
Published:
First baseman Justin Smoak, who left the Mariners on Tuesday to be with his dying father in South Carolina, is expected to rejoin the team next week for the start of a series in Detroit.
Smoak's father, 54-year-old Keith Smoak, died Tuesday night after suffering from lung cancer.
"The arrangements are today and tomorrow," manager Eric Wedge said. "We're going to just have him meet us in Detroit. We'll give him the time to spend with his family and have the closure that he needs to have there before he comes back."
Wedge said he spoke with Smoak on Thursday.
"He was OK," Wedge said. "We've all been through this in one way, shape or form. What he's trying to do is take care of his family."
Smoak went on bereavement leave Tuesday and will use all seven days allowed on that list. Wedge expected him to fly to Detroit on Monday -- an off day for the team -- and be available to play Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series against the Tigers.
Outfielder Carlos Peguero replaced Smoak on the roster and Adam Kennedy got most of the starts at first base.
Rotating the rotation
Felix Hernandez prefers to pitch every fifth day, and so far the Mariners are staying with that plan by tweaking the rotation in order to have him on the mound Tuesday night at Detroit on his regular turn.
"It's always subject to change, but that's what we'd like to do," Wedge said.
One reason it may change is because Hernandez threw 128 pitches Thursday night against the A's.
The current rotation, with Hernandez pitching Tuesday, will push Erik Bedard back to Wednesday, having him work with six days of rest. That's not a bad thing, either, considering Bedard missed all of last season because of shoulder surgery.
"It allows him to have a good work day and to wait and get after it a little bit more," said Wedge, who believes Bedard has improved with each outing even though he's 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA. "With Erik, you see signs and different things with each start that should allow him to improve."
One-pitch pitcher
Asked if he might need to stretch Jamey Wright out to, say, three or four pitches after his past two appearances out of the bullpen, Wedge smiled. Wright entered the game Thursday with two outs in the eighth inning and got a ground-ball out with his first pitch, two days after he got a double play to end a threat with one pitch.
"The irony is that prior to that he threw two innings," Wedge said. "We'd been keeping him at one inning quite a bit, then he threw two innings, and the last couple of outings it's been one pitch. Whatever it takes to get the job done is what we're looking for."
Of note
Wedge said the Mariners hoped to have answers in "the next day or two" on tests this week on center fielder Franklin Gutierrez at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. … Michael Pineda, Friday night's starting pitcher for the Mariners, passed his driver's test on Thursday. Pineda, a 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic, doesn't have his own car yet. … Wedge said reliever Chris Ray, who hadn't pitched since Monday when he allowed a hit, two walks and two earned runs in 2/3 inning against the Tigers, has worked the past few days with pitching coach Carl Willis. "We'll pick a spot to get back in there," Wedge said. "This is a guy who's had some success at the back end of the bullpen in the past. Now we're just trying to work him back in and get him back on track so that he can be what we believe he can be for us."
Story tags » Mariners

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