Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Seattle Mariners
news

Mariners News

Smith rejoins Mariners after Triple-A reboot

Long optioned to Tacoma after first stint in Majors
@gregjohnsmlb
May 17, 2019

SEATTLE -- Mallex Smith went to Triple-A Tacoma with a purpose two weeks ago, and he feels ready for a fresh start upon rejoining the Mariners on Thursday. “I worked on being a better baseball player and I feel like I came out being a better baseball player,” Smith said

SEATTLE -- Mallex Smith went to Triple-A Tacoma with a purpose two weeks ago, and he feels ready for a fresh start upon rejoining the Mariners on Thursday.

“I worked on being a better baseball player and I feel like I came out being a better baseball player,” Smith said of his brief demotion. “So, we’ll see how it works out. I worked on some different rhythmic things at the plate and then keeping routine plays as routine as possible on defense.”

Smith batted ninth and started in center field in Thursday’s series opener against the Twins, going 1-for-4 with a solo homer in the 11-6 loss and dropping a fly ball by Eddie Rosario in the fourth inning for his fourth error of the season.

Rookie second baseman Shed Long was optioned back to Tacoma to open a spot for Smith, who posted a .333/.375/.467 slash line with one home run and seven stolen bases in 10 games at Triple-A.

The 26-year-old speedster was acquired by general manager Jerry Dipoto in December to fill the Mariners’ leadoff role and play center field, but he struggled in the first month of the season after missing most of Spring Training with a strained right elbow.

Smith posted a .165/.255/.247 line in his first 27 games with Seattle, with eight stolen bases and 15 runs scored. That was a far cry from his production for Tampa Bay last season, when he hit .296/.367/.406 with 27 doubles, 10 triples and 40 stolen bases.

Smith acknowledged the short spring affected his timing at the plate and that he rushed trying to get immediate results without going through the normal progression. He returned to Florida to work with his personal hitting coach for a few days after being demoted and gradually felt his timing return at the plate.

“Having good timing allows you to be ready for everything that is coming,” Smith said. “Just like life, if you’re on time for things, you can make the necessary adjustment if somebody throws you a curveball.”

Smith also had defensive issues in his first month with the Mariners and clearly was pressing before the club sent him to Tacoma to reboot his season. He’ll get a chance to regain the starting role in center, which allows Mitch Haniger to move back to his normal right-field duties.

“The reports from Triple-A were really good,” manager Scott Servais said. “Running the bases well, broke out his bunt game. A lot of things he got back to doing that he needs to do here consistently. … Get on base and catch the ball. If he does those two things, he’s got a good chance to play a lot.”

Long, the Mariners’ No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline, helped fill in at second base while Dee Gordon was dealing with a bruised right wrist. He went 0-for-9 with two walks and three strikeouts in his first Major League action.

The 23-year-old has hit .276 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 32 games for Tacoma, while playing second, third and some outfield, and he remains a part of Seattle's rebuilding plans going forward.

“I think he saw things in a little different light,” Servais said of Long’s MLB debut. “It looks easy on TV and all the sudden the lights are on and it goes a little faster at times. But he’ll be back. I like the player a lot. Organizationally, we like what he brings, and his versatility is a big part of it. He’ll continue to move around the field in Tacoma, some outfield, some third base, kind of doing all he has to do to stay in the lineup.”

Worth noting

• Kyle Seager played five innings at third base in his second rehab game for Tacoma on Thursday at Reno, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, as he works back from surgery on a torn tendon in his left hand. Seager went 1-for-4 with a walk in his first game at designated hitter on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Seager remains on schedule to come off the 60-day injured list when he’s eligible on May 25.

• Closer Hunter Strickland played catch on Wednesday and will do so again Friday as he continues an every-other-day throwing program to begin his return from a strained right lat.

• Right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala, who is working back from a ruptured Achilles tendon, has allowed one run on one hit and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings over six rehab outings at Class A Advanced Modesto and likely will be promoted to Tacoma after throwing well in back-to-back outings.

• Right-hander Gerson Bautista, out since Spring Training with a strained right pectoral muscle, has allowed two runs on one hit and four walks with seven strikeouts in four innings over his first four rehab outings at Modesto. He is also close to being bumped up to Tacoma or Double-A West Virginia once he throws on consecutive days.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.