Almost lost in the news of the Seattle Mariners trading Ichiro Suzuki on Monday was the demotion of Justin Smoak to the Tacoma Rainiers.
The biggest difference was that Ichiro is now in a playoff hunt — Smoak is fighting for his major league future.
Smoak reached base twice in his first game since the demotion as the Tacoma Rainiers lost a 4-3 decision to the Tucson Padres.
“Baseball is baseball,” Smoak said. “It’s a little different here with less lights and glamour, but (you’ve) still got to work hard to be where you want to be.
“(I’ve) definitely got a lot of work to do, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The demotion was not surprising after the 25-year-old first baseman saw his Seattle batting average drop to .189.
If he can’t find his game away from the Seattle spotlights at the Triple-A level, it figures to be a big hit in the Mariners’ rebuilding plans.
“It’s never fun but sometimes you have to take a step back to take a couple steps forward,” Smoak said. “I’m here for a reason and that’s to work on a few things.”
He got on base for the first time in his past 20 at-bats on a single in the third inning. It came directly after a Nick Franklin two-run single that scored Vinnie Catricala and Darren Ford.
Smoak finished the night 1-for-4 with a single, walk and a strikeout looking.
“Obviously he has been through a tough stretch in the big leagues and things haven’t been going well and that is why he is here,” said Rainiers manager Daren Brown. “Our whole thing is to try to turn him around and try to build some confidence.”
Smoak isn’t the only player trying to find his groove and get back to Seattle. Pitcher Hector Noesi fits that description, but a 14.04 ERA in two Triple-A starts since being demoted from the Mariners on July 5 would suggest he is sinking.
Despite the loss, Noesi had a solid start. He looked erratic at times, especially when he threw three wild pitches and walked two in the fourth inning, Noesi left in the fifth after giving up four runs — three of them earned — and striking out nine.
He came into the game with four strikeouts his previous two starts. Then he struck out nine to match the most by a Rainners starter this season. His ERA dropped to 10.54
Trayvon Robinson’s promotion to the Mariners leaves the Rainiers with just two true outfielders – Darren Ford and Mike Wilson. In left field was Alex Liddi.
Today’s 11:30 a.m. matinee at Cheney Stadium will feature Erasmo Ramirez (3-2, 3.11 ERA) in his first rehab start for Tacoma against Tucson starter Matt Palmer (6-6, 6.16 ERA). The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.