4 Players Ready But Is There Room?
The beginning of the week began with a bang for the Seattle Mariners as they made chopped clams out of the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox. At the same time, however, several of their key players were down in Tacoma proving that they were healthy and ready to return to the show.
It’s not often that team winds up with 4 guys on the DL all ready to return at roughly the same time but that’s what Lloyd McClendon and Jack Zduriencik are facing given the recent performances of Taijuan Walker, Justin Smoak, Corey Hart, and Michael Saunders.
Who should stay down a while longer? Who should be sent down in their place? Can they really all come back at once? Those are the questions now on the minds of Seattle Mariners fans. Let’s see if we can figure out some answers.
Let’s start with the easy one. Walker was absolutely masterful in a rehab start in Tacoma Tuesday night. See for yourself.
Game ball from last night!! Still pumped about it 🙂 pic.twitter.com/gFSSostQZ6
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) June 25, 2014
The complete game shutout by Walker should alleviate any lingering doubts as to whether Walker has recovered fully and is ready to re-join the Mariners rotation.
Who does he replace? Well, it’s the easy one remember.
Say goodbye Erasmo Ramirez.
Seeing how many base runners you could allow in 20 innings without giving up a run was fun but I have enough heart attack risk factors in my life.
Ramirez was sent back to AAA on Wednesday and Brandon Maurer was recalled to work out of the bullpen. I think we’ll see another move that sends Maurer back down prior to Monday’s game against Houston in which Walker gets the call.
Now things are going to get a bit more difficult. Hart has played in 4 rehab games so far and he’s compiled a .294 average (5-17) including a double and a triple.
That’s right– a triple. Is there any doubt that this guy’s hamstring is ok now? Hart isn’t exactly a speed demon out there so for him to get a triple says to me his leg is fine.
Hart had been the primary DH deployed the Mariners prior to his injury, hitting right handed behind Robinson Cano. The Mariners could certainly use a righty with his power potential in that spot.
Don’t forget Hart is a guy who hit 5 dingers in 37 games prior to that hammy issue.
Who departs to free up that spot? That’s a really tough call.
Logan Morrison was the guy called up to replace Hart and he’s tearing the cover off the ball right now. In fact Morrison is 10-31 with 3 homers since smashing his bat and his eye with one frustration swing in the dugout. I guess it knocked some sense into him.
However it is Morrison figured it out, I just can’t see him going down in favor of Hart.
The guy that is the most likely to go is Stefen Romero. Romero is also a righty with big power potential but he’s still looking very green out there and not playing a whole lot. He needs ABs and AAA is where he’ll get some more regularly.
Smoak has also proved he’s ready based on his AAA rehab numbers. He’s had hits in back to back games and has hit a home run.
His return also gives something the Mariners need– a first baseman who can play the position well defensively.
With all due respect to Morrison and the nice couple of catches he’s had this past week he’s just not as fluid over there as Smoak. Does that mean I think Morrison heads out and Smoak replaces him?
In a word, no.
Morrison can platoon DH with Hart, play the outfield in corner spots occasionally and spell Smoak at first base to stay in the lineup regularly. The guy that heads out is Cole Gillespie.
Cole has been getting a start here and there against a tough lefty in place of Dustin Ackley in left. I’d call it a semi-platoon role, so to speak, but I really don’t understand that concept especially when you look at Ackley’s splits and discover that he’s far better against left handers than right handers.
Sorry Cole, but it’s time to part ways.
How good were Saunders and James Jones batting in the 1-2 spots together before Saunders wrenched his shoulder on a swing and miss strike three?
Pretty darn good I must say and I’d really like to see that 1-2 punch again.
Saunders has been getting it done in AAA rehab work batting .450 (9-20) with two doubles, a triple, a homer and seven RBIs.
What more do you want to see from him down there?
Since it’s obvious he’s ready to come back the only discussion needs to be who gets sent out? The most likely candidate unfortunately is the resurgent Jesus Montero.
Despite a home run and a nice looking .286 batting average in 14 ABs the Mariners aren’t letting Montero see the field very often and this young man needs at-bats if he’s going to have a chance at redemption.
Montero was caught up in that Biogenesis mess last year and it cost him 50 games. He spent another 50 days at all you can eat buffets in Vegas, putting on over 40lbs.
The weight has come off but continued consistent playing time at his new position of first base is what he needs and AAA is where he’ll find it.
In what order will all this happen? Your guess is as good as mine I suppose but I suspect Walker and Saunders will be the first to return, followed by Hart. The M’s might wait out Smoak a bit to see of his average comes up a bit more to compliment his power.
Whatever the order they return, they will return, one way or another. It’s entirely possible the M’s drag their feet on the issue until after the All-Star break.
Once they are all back though, the M’s will be a better team and ready for the pennant chase.