Justin Smoak certainly didn’t want his locker moving 36 miles south of Safeco Field to Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium, but the Seattle Mariners are hoping it’s what he needs to build some confidence after batting .189 in 90 games this year.
Tacoma Rainiers manager Daren Brown spoke with Smoak when he arrived in Tacoma today and made clear what is expected of him.
“Play first base and get him to hit,” Brown said. “Obviously he has been through a tough stretch in the big leagues. Things haven’t been going well and that is why he is here. Our whole thing is to turn him around and try to build some confidence in him.
Obviously I’m going to talk with him when he gets here to see where he is at and what’s going on. But it’s not a ‘Nice to see you’ conversation when you are sent down like he was.”
Brown said no date has been set for when the organization expects Smoak to pull things together and get back to Seattle.
“There’s no timetable,” Brown said. “And I don’t want him to have one either. But everybody here would like to see him turn it around soon.”
Smoak’s departure came at the same time Mike Carp finished his rehab assignment. Carp will start at first base tonight for the Mariners, who also called up outfielder Trayvon Robinson.
Robinson played 44 games for the Mariners last year and hit .210 in 143 at bats with 60 strikeouts. He has hit .265 with nine home runs, 43 RBI and 19 stolen bases with the Rainiers this season.
“He did a nice job for us,” Brown said. “He was coming around a lot better at the end of last year and made a lot of improvements this year.”
Smoak won’t be the only new face on the Rainiers roster, though, as the pitching prospects brought from the New York Yankees in the Ichiro Suzuki trade are expected to be added to the roster. D.J. Mitchell was officially added today, while the Rainiers are still waiting Danny Farquhar to fly in.
Smoak spent four games on a rehab assignment with the Rainiers last year and played 35 games in Tacoma in 2010. He was originally drafted 11th overall in the 2008 draft out of the University of South Carolina and came Seattle in a 2010 trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers.
Brown made clear that he is looking for Smoak to use the opportunity to settle down, take a breather and get some confidence so he can get to the level of play many expected of him when he was drafted so high two years ago and what the Mariners expected when they traded Lee to get him.
“Obviously things at the big league level are more under the microscope,” Brown said. “That’s why it is the big leagues. Being here allows him to get some work in, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. Like I’ve said already, we are just going to try to build some confidence in him.”