Justin Smoak, a.k.a. “The Smoak Monster,” is on the road to recovery. The young, power-hitting first baseman commenced his rehab assignment for the Seattle Mariners yesterday with a trip to the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.
Smoak hadn’t played since August 12, when he landed on the 15-day DL with a non-displaced fracture of his nose.
He played first base for six innings on Monday and went 0 for 1 with a walk.
As of press time, Smoak was slated to start today at designated hitter for Tacoma.
The rehab assignment raises a few eyebrows. It’s not like Smoak is bouncing back from a torn ACL.
It’s a broken nose, so typical logic would suggest it’s not the type or injury that would require a lengthy rehab, especially after a short DL stint and with the Mariners having little left to play for this season.
The real reason why Smoak is toiling at Tacoma could be Mike Carp. He continues to flash good power, batting .291 with eight homers and 31 RBI over 51 games, and he’s earned solid reviews for his play at first base.
Smoak started 2011 on fire with the Mariners, driving in 17 runs in 22 April games with a .920 OPS, but he hit .229, .226, and .141 in the months to follow. Maybe manager Eric Wedge wants Smoak to stay in Triple-A to get his confidence back, not just to heal.