By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners sent struggling first baseman Justin Smoak to Class AAA Tacoma Monday night following another tough outing in Seattle’s 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees.
Smoak, whose average fell to .189 after an 0-for-3 night with two strikeouts, has struggled to hit consistently all season, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge hinted before the All-Star break that some struggling young players could be sent down if things didn’t improve. But Smoak’s demotion shouldn’t be seen in a lack of confidence in the switch hitter, Wedge said.
“I believe in Justin Smoak and I believe he’s going to be a part of this,” he said. “But right now we feel like this is the right thing to do for him.”
Wedge said Mike Carp, who has been in Tacoma on a rehab assignment, will join the Mariners, who will still have another roster spot available following the trade of Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees.
The Mariners hope that some time in Tacoma will allow Smoak, 25, to find some confidence and return looking more like the player they hoped to be getting when he came to Seattle as the key piece of the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Texas in 2010. Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik elected against sending Smoak or any of the other struggling players down immediately after the All-Star break, but after watching him get just four hits in 11 games since the break, they decided it was time.
“This is for him,” Wedge said. “This is what we feel like is the right thing for him right now. To give him a break, to give him a different environment without the pressure of being in the big leagues to where he can go down there and work and get on track and find it.”