SEATTLE – Justin Smoak sat by his Safeco Field locker, eager to get the post-All-Star Game portion of his season under way with an off-day workout.
There were times this week when Smoak and other Mariners had to wonder whether they’d participate in Thursday’s session. But Mariners manager Eric Wedge announced to the team, then the media, that he and general manager Jack Zduriencik are sticking with the current roster for now and not sending anyone to Triple-A.
Wedge made noise last weekend about moving one or more players to Tacoma if he didn’t start to see offensive improvements. Apparently, he saw just enough to stick with what he has, meaning Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and others can breathe a little easier for the time being.
“I’ve just got to do better,” Smoak said. “My first half was terrible. I saw signs of some good things, but most of it wasn’t good.”
Most of what Wedge saw from his team in Oakland last weekend, when he began musing openly about getting rid of players, wasn’t good, either. But he also saw just enough of the positive signs for which he was looking.
“You look at different individuals and whether you’re watching them work, or more importantly, watching them in the games, you see indicators,” Wedge said. “You see things that you want to see that you feel like really, ‘That’s it!’ When you look at something you say, ‘All right, that’s it! That’s what we’re talking about.’
“It may just be one swing, or one hit or one out or one AB. But that’s what that particular individual needs to do on a consistent basis. Because that’s the type of player he is, or that’s the type of hitter he is and that’s what we need to see more often.”
For Smoak, the moment came when he just missed homering off Bartolo Colon to right field on Sunday on a towering blast that hooked foul. In Ackley’s case, it was a single the other way to lead off the game.
Another reason the Mariners could be balking at change is they don’t have a huge list of potential replacements waiting at Triple-A. In Smoak’s case, Mike Carp is still on an injury rehabilitation assignment in which he’s been used as a designated hitter, but Wedge wants him to play first base before he’s activated off the disabled list.
The bottom line, Wedge added, is that he’s not just going to get rid of a young player for the sake of doing it.
“Let’s see how they come out of the break with having a few days off and getting away from it,” Wedge said. “You’ve got a team out there that, they care about the right things, they work hard, they care about each other and about the game.”
“One thing we have to do is get them in a better position where they can come out and perform.”
Wedge said his decision to use starter Jason Vargas on Monday in Kansas City instead of at Safeco Field, where he typically fares better, is all about getting him extra rest. Trade rumors began swirling around Vargas on Thursday when ESPN.com columnist Jayson Stark wrote that the Orioles and other teams that were looking at arms like Zack Greinke and Matt Garza had turned their focus toward Vargas as a cheaper trade alternative.
Vargas said he typically doesn’t pay attention to rumors, which have followed him the past two July trade-deadline periods.
“I guess it means I’m doing something right,” Vargas said.
For now, that’s something Smoak and some of his teammates will try to do as well. Smoak said it helped that he hit doubles on Saturday and Sunday ahead of the All-Star break.
“Anytime you can find something you feel good about, it does help,” Smoak said. “It’s just a matter of finding a way to consistently do it.”