By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
ANAHEIM — The Mariners made an expected and needed roster move before Tuesday’s game, activating first baseman Justin Smoak from the disabled list and optioning infielder Alex Liddi to Tacoma.
Liddi was notified of the move after Monday night’s loss at Angels Stadium. He flew to Colorado Springs, Colo., to join the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers for Tuesday night’s game.
Smoak caught a flight from Sacramento early Tuesday morning where the Rainiers had been playing and arrived in Anaheim. He was immediately placed in the starting lineup at first base, batting sixth. and homered in his first at-bat.
Smoak isn’t expected to resuscitate the team’s flailing offense. After all, he was hitting just .240 with three homers and eight RBI when he went on the disabled list. His on-base percentage was a respectable .350, but his slugging percentage was .344.
No, this was a move based on other issues. With Michael Morse being limited by a quadriceps strain and Kendrys Morales battling a stiff back, getting back an every-day first baseman helps manager Eric Wedge rest his ailing players, while giving him a solid defensive presence.
“With Smoak being back here, we’ll be able to give some guys some days off that need it,” Wedge said.
It’s one of the reasons Smoak played just five games on his rehab assignment. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list June 2 with a strained right oblique. The move was retroactive to May 30.
The Mariners have missed his presence in the lineup.
“He’s a fantastic first baseman, and he was heading in the right direction offensively before he got hurt,” Wedge said.
Morse was out of the lineup on Tuesday for what Wedge called “a health day.” Morse did participate in some pregame agility work to prepare him to return to playing outfield. Jason Bay also was unavailable with hamstring tightness.
Besides Smoak, oft-injured outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list Saturday.
General manager Jack Zduriencik told Wedge he liked what he saw from Gutierrez in Sacramento on Monday.
“Jack saw him last night and said he looked really good,” Wedge said. “I know Gut says he feels normal, so that’s a good sign. And the reports are good on him.”
With outfielder Michael Saunders struggling at the plate, the Mariners could activate Gutierrez and send Saunders to Tacoma to figure things out.
But because of Gutierrez’s injury history, it’s tough for Wedge to commit to or even plan on having him in the lineup on a daily basis.
Another outfield option for the Mariners has become Dustin Ackley. Seattle’s opening-day second baseman has been playing left field and center field the past five days in Tacoma in an effort to increase versatility and also return to the big leagues.
“Jack said he looked really good in left field, but didn’t really have any balls hit to him in center field, but that he’s been OK in center field,” Wedge said. “And he’s swinging the bat, he’s up there ready to hit. He’s doing what he needs to do down there, but we need to give him a little more time.”
Time for what?
“I want him to see a little more time in the outfield in general, whether it be left field or center field,” Wedge said. “Either way, I think it works well. The reps in center field would be a concern right now. We want to make sure he can do that. And I want to make sure what he’s doing up there at home plate mentally is really as well.”
Left-hander Joe Saunders (5-6, 4.80 ERA) will try pick up his second road win of the season for the Mariners. The Angels will go with fellow lefty C.J. Wilson (5-3, 3.90 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.