ST. PETERSBURG -- The last leg of the Mariners’ road trip began on Monday, and outfielder Mallex Smith was looking forward to the series opener against the Rays for a couple of reasons.
First, the homecoming. Smith played 222 games for Tampa Bay between 2017-18 before the Rays traded him to Seattle on Nov. 8. The speedster hit an American League-best 10 triples and swiped a career-high 40 bases in ’18, and he carried a .287 average in his two seasons with Tampa Bay.
What’s more, Smith was born and raised in Tallahassee, Fla., where his immediate family still resides. It’s 300 miles northwest of Tropicana Field, but the 4 1/2-hour road trip still makes it much, much closer than home games at T-Mobile Park.
“The best part [about playing here] is that my family’s in town,” Smith said before Seattle's 9-3 victory, in which he went 0-for-4 but made a nice running catch in right field. “They don’t get to see me as much as they used to, so it’s an event. All my immediate family is here, my nephew, a few friends I adopted as family who live in Tampa now … so 10-11 people.”
Smith was also eager to get back in action after a few mental errors led to manager Scott Servais benching his outfielder on Saturday and the first seven innings on Sunday. Monday marked Smith's return to the starting lineup.
“It feels good,” Smith said. “I’m going to keep playing hard.”
Did Servais receive the reaction he was looking for with the move?
“He’ll be ready to go [Monday],” Servais said. “We certainly talked about where we’re at. Had conversations with him. He understands; he just wants to get out there and play and do his thing.”
• Mitch Haniger (ruptured testicle) is ready to take the field again after missing the past few games of his rehab start at Triple-A Tacoma with a sore lower back. There’s no set timetable for the 2018 All-Star right fielder’s return, but once he builds up his at-bats and playing time, a Haniger reunion appears imminent.
• Félix Hernández (right shoulder strain) was slated to pitch five innings with Tacoma on Monday night. If all goes well, Servais said his veteran will likely be with the Mariners for his next scheduled start, which would line up for Aug. 27 at home against the Yankees.
“We only have four starters/bulk guys right now,” Servais said. “We use the opener for a couple, but we need that fifth starter.”
• Austin Adams (right shoulder strain) reported no issues after his latest bullpen session over the weekend, and the reliever is nearing a return to game action for the first time since July 6.
“He’s got one more session to go on, and he’ll go out on a rehab assignment after that,” Servais said. “He is feeling much better. Throwing all his pitches -- fastball, slider, instead of just the fastball.”
Spring Training schedule released
The Mariners will open up their 2020 Cactus League schedule against the Padres on Feb. 22. Seattle will be the road team at Peoria Sports Complex that day, before hosting the Rangers and Cubs on Feb. 23-24.
The spring slate features 33 games, 16 of which are home. The Mariners will host all 14 Cactus League teams along the way, including the Giants (Feb. 27) and Dodgers (March 13). Seattle will battle American League West teams six times in the preseason, with home and road games against the Rangers, A’s and Angels.
They’ll close out the home portion of the spring schedule on March 23 against the Rockies, then wrap up the exhibition season with a road game against Colorado the following day. The Mariners will then open the regular season against the Rangers on March 26 at T-Mobile Park.