Slumping Nick Franklin earns day on bench

Staff writerAugust 17, 2013 

— With left-hander Martin Perez starting for the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners wanting to give Brendan Ryan a start, acting manager Robby Thompson bumped slumping rookie second baseman Nick Franklin out of Saturday’s lineup.

“Nick has a day off today,” Thompson said before game. “We’ll give Nick a little rest and a little work day. He’s been struggling lately, but he’s struggling even more so from the right side.”

The numbers aren’t pretty. Since July 2, Franklin is hitting .194 (27-for-139) with a .261 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage. He does have six homers in those 34 games, but he’s also struck out 52 times. Batting right-handed and facing left-handed pitchers, Franklin is hitting .224 (19-for-85).

Teams are refusing to throw him fastballs. Why? He hits them and hits them well. But Franklin has struggled with breaking pitches and change-ups in fastball counts. He’s not the first player to have such issue.

“When young guys get up here, you’re going to be tested to see if you can hit a fastball,” Thompson said. “If you can’t, you’re going to keep getting them. Well, he’s a pretty good fastball hitter. Now …, word gets out and they’re throwing breaking balls in fastball counts and he has not really made that adjustment yet. That should come with time.”

The struggles seem to have sapped some of the ever-present confidence Franklin has shown since being drafted in 2009.

“Even as confident as he was down (in the minors), he was confident up here earlier and he’s lost a little bit of that,” Thompson said. “He’s lost a little of his swagger. But he’ll get it back. He’s a young kid and it’s part of the growing pains and learning situations he’s going to have to go through.”

Baseball can do that to anyone.

“This game will humble you in a hurry,” Thompson said. “Just when you think you’ve got it made up here, it can come back and bite you in a hurry and sometimes it bites you hard and long. He’s kind of finding out a little bit about that right now.”

SMOAK IN GROOVE

With his solo home run off Tanner Scheppers on Friday night, Justin Smoak pushed his on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) to .821. It was the highest among Mariners regulars going into Saturday.

Since May 1 Smoak is hitting .289 (65-for-225) with 13 homers, 29 RBI, a .382 on-base percentage and a .516 slugging percentage.

He’s been so good some fans are grumbling about why Thompson hasn’t moved Smoak up in the batting order from his usual sixth or seventh spot to fourth or fifth, especially with Michael Morse and Raul Ibañez slumping.

Smoak said he believes he can return to the middle of the order and have success. But he’s OK with his current status.

“I feel like I’ve always hit in the middle of the order my entire life,” he said. “It’s not a big deal to me. Last year I hit in the four spot a lot. … We have some veteran guys in the middle of the order now. My time will come.”

Thompson wants to further Smoak’s progress and doesn’t want to do anything that will detract from his solid approach at the plate.

“I think it’s been working and Smoak has been comfortable and he has done well there,” Thompson said of the lineup. “We have talked about, ‘Do we move him up, or just leave him where he’s been, where he’s not thinking maybe I have to do even more?’ We’ll just keep him there where he’s done well and he’s comfortable at and not make too many changes to it.”

ON TAP

The Mariners close out the three-game series at Texas with game at 12:05 p.m. Sunday. Seattle is expected to start right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (4-0, 7.06 ERA). The Rangers will go with right-hander Yu Darvish (12-5, 3.14 ERA). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483
ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners
@RyanDivish

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