Servais confident Smith ‘to be ready’ for OD

July 19th, 2020

SEATTLE -- As the Mariners ramp up for their final workouts of Summer Camp before heading to Houston for Opening Day on Friday, manager Scott Servais finally has most of his players in place.

made his intrasquad debut on Saturday night and went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored out of the leadoff spot. The speedster also made a long running catch in center field, and his return was a good sign for a club that is short on experienced outfielders.

Smith said he’d stick with the team’s protocol of not specifying why he was a late arrival to camp, but he readily acknowledged he’s thrilled to be back.

“It’s rewarding,” Smith said. “I had to spend some time just off with this whole situation. So finally being able to get back on the field is a fulfilling feeling. … More than anything, I felt happy. You sit out for so long you start thinking about life after baseball, with the whole COVID extended period. So to actually get out there and play a competitive game, I was just excited. At a time like this, you don’t realize how good you’ve got it until it gets taken from you.”

Utility man also made his first intrasquad appearance and went 1-for-4 with a stolen base while playing second base. Minor League catcher Joe Hudson made a late-inning appearance behind the plate. Smith, Moore and Hudson weren’t cleared to join the team at T-Mobile Park until Wednesday, then spent their first several days getting back up to speed.

The only player yet to join Summer Camp is reliever , who has been placed on the injured list.

Servais fully expects Smith to be on the 30-man Opening Day roster and to be available for Friday’s regular-season opener against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“He’s going to be ready by Friday, I’m feeling pretty confident in that,” Servais said Saturday morning. “I just hope the timing and how he looks [is OK], understanding these guys are only going to play four or five [intrasquad] games.”

Moore doesn’t figure to be an everyday player if he’s on the roster in a utility role, but Smith projected as the starting center fielder coming into the season. Rookie has been working in that spot during the first two weeks of Summer Camp and could start there if Smith isn’t deemed fully ready, or move to right field when Smith is set to play.

Smith missed all of Spring Training in 2019 with a strained right elbow, then got off to a slow start in the regular season and wound up being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma at one point. He hit just .227/.300/.335 in 134 games but led the American League with 46 stolen bases.

This year, the 27-year-old had been working out in Florida prior to arriving in Seattle two weeks ago, but he hasn’t faced live pitching since Spring Training was shut down in March.

That makes the remaining intrasquad contests critical for Smith as well as Moore, with games scheduled every night through Wednesday before the team flies to Houston on Thursday.

“If we get into Friday, they might not be in the Opening Day lineup,” Servais said. “We’ll have to wait and see how our club is at that point. They might not run out there and play seven, eight, 10 days in a row. We’ll have to work them in.

“It’s unfortunate they didn’t have the whole Summer Camp to prepare, but that’s the cards they were dealt and we were dealt, so we’ll just try to make the best of it and get them up to speed as quick as we can.”

No surgery for Julio
Outfielder will not need surgery on his fractured left wrist after undergoing further tests, Servais said, but the 19-year-old won’t be able to do any baseball activity for 4-6 weeks.

That likely ends any chance of the Mariners’ No. 2 prospect joining Seattle’s extra players on the 60-player pool who will be working out in Tacoma for the next two months. Rodriguez was hurt diving for a ball during a postgame drill Wednesday.

“You hate to lose an entire year,” Servais said. “I know Julio has ties to a winter ball team in the Dominican. Hopefully he can get on that club and get some at-bats there. We'll just have to wait and see where that goes.”

Short takes from T-Mobile Park
• Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s intrasquad games will all be broadcast live on 710 ESPN Seattle radio starting at 6:10 p.m. PT each night. Wednesday’s game is also slated to be televised on ROOT Sports, while Monday and Tuesday’s games will be streamed live on the Mariners’ YouTube channel.

• Seattle’s tentative rotation plan is to go with Marco Gonzales, Taijuan Walker, Yusei Kikuchi and Kendall Graveman in order in the four-game season-opening series in Houston. Rookies Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn would then pitch the first two games in Anaheim, with Gonzales wrapping up the road trip in the final game against the Angels. That would set up Walker to start the Mariners’ home opener on Friday, July 31, against the A’s.