By Larry LaRue The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Justin Smoak remained in the Seattle Mariners lineup on Wednesday despite having gone 2-for-17 during the team’s home stand and batting only .178 this season.
If fans are asking why, manager Eric Wedge has an answer.
“Last year at this time he was our best hitter,” Wedge said. “My confidence level hasn’t dropped in him, I still believe he can hit.”
Smoak, a switch-hitter, has a tougher time snapping out of slumps than players who bat from one side, Wedge said.
“All switch-hitters have a tougher time, they’ve got to get and keep two swings going, not just one,” Wedge said. “We moved him down in the lineup and I think he’s in the middle of coming out of this stretch.”
Smoak has been getting plenty of advice, and doing extra work with batting coach Chris Chambliss. Wedge said his conversations with Smoak have been about perspective.
“This is important, but it’s not that important,” Wedge said. “But it’s not your ilfe, and it’s not your wife. Sometimes his swing gets long, other times he shortens it up and you see the ball jump off his bat.
“It means a lot to him. We’re trying to just let him play.”
More bad news for Guti
The news on Franklin Gutierrez continues to be bad, and the former Gold Glove center fielder examined Wednesday in Seattle by team doctors has been told to take another few days off.
The pectoral injury that landed him on the disabled list to open the season has healed, but Gutierrez has developed plantar fasciitis in a heel and his rehab has been crippled by it.
“He was checked out to make sure it wasn’t something else, and we’re told it’s not going away any time soon,” Wedge said. “We’re going to have to play it by ear.”
Bottom line: Gutierrez needs to face Class AAA pitching at some point, since he missed virtually all of the Cactus League, and he cannot play until his heel allows it.
How soon might that be?
“We don’t know,” Wedge said. “He was doing OK for awhile, then it flared back up.”
Though he became just the second catcher in franchise history to bat leadoff, John Jaso said the job was not that big a deal for him since he did it while catching 41 games for Tampa Bay in 2010.
“The first at-bat is the only one with any difference,” Jaso said. “You always come up with the bases empty there, and you to try to get as much information as you can about the pitcher that first at-bat.
“You take pitches, you get info and you let your teammates see more, too. Then in another at-bat, maybe with men on base, you’ve seen what he’s got and do a better job.”
“Dustin Ackley needed a day off, Jaso’s done it before and he’s a good on-base guy,” Wedge said. “And he’s swinging well.”
Blake Beavan’s right elbow remained too swollen to throw Wednesday, two days after being hit by a Miguel Cabrera line drive.
“The plan now is for me to throw a bullpen session Friday, throw lightly Saturday and see where we are,” Beavan said. “I feel great right now.”
The team may take a slightly more conservative approach.
“I think he’ll make his next start, but with the off day (today) it doesn’t have to be on Sunday,” Wedge said. “We’ll get him back out there, it just may not be in his usual spot.”