Seattle Mariners

Seager injury gives O’Malley rare start at hot corner

Seattle Mariners third baseman Shawn O’Malley, left, can’t beat the throw to first base and is out in the second inning against the New York Yankees on Wednesday in Seattle. O’Malley got the start at third after regular third baseman Kyle Seager fouled a pitch off his foot Tuesday night.
Seattle Mariners third baseman Shawn O’Malley, left, can’t beat the throw to first base and is out in the second inning against the New York Yankees on Wednesday in Seattle. O’Malley got the start at third after regular third baseman Kyle Seager fouled a pitch off his foot Tuesday night. Seattle Times

Two days after Shawn O’Malley made a spectacular catch as a seventh-inning defensive substitute for right fielder Seth Smith, the utility player was early to the field Wednesday for some pregame practice at third base.

O’Malley started the matinee against the Yankees in place of Kyle Seager, who fouled a ball off his right foot Tuesday night and bruised a bone. Although initial X-rays were negative, Seager was limping noticeably through the clubhouse Wednesday morning.

“It’s a little bit ironic,” manager Scott Servais said. “On our last road trip, Seth Smith fouled a ball off his foot, and Seager was the one giving him the hardest time about being pulled out of the lineup that day.

“Be careful. The baseball gods will get you sometimes.”

A middle infielder for the first six years of his pro career, O’Malley expanded his repertoire to third base and the outfield in 2012. But until Wednesday, his experience at the hot corner had been limited to four major league games and 16 in the minors.

“It’s not easy,” Servais said of the conversion. “That’s the value of the utility player, being able to run all over the field. I don’t think you’re looking for gold glove defense anywhere, but Shawn’s got a couple of things on his side: He’s very athletic, and he’s got a very good arm, which makes up for some issues, whether in the outfield or the infield.

“We feel good about putting him over there. He’ll handle it and give us everything he’s got, no matter where you put him.”

O’Malley almost produced a sparkling play in the fourth inning, when he made a backhand stop of Tyler Austin’s hard grounder. But with Aaron Hicks on first base and the Yankees leading 2-0, O’Malley attempted a force out of Hicks at second instead of throwing to first. Hicks was safe, and ended up scoring on Brett Gardner’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

“The ball gets to you a little quicker at third, so I was trying to slow myself down,” O’Malley said. “It’ll get easier with more reps. I haven’t played there in a while.”

Servais suggested O’Malley also could see action at first base as a backup for the left-handed hitting Adam Lind, who assumed a full-time role after Dae-Ho Lee was optioned to Tacoma. Active major league rosters can be expanded to 40 players on Sept. 1.

DOUBLE TROUBLE

Robinson Cano, who began Wednesday with 29 two-base hits, attempted to become the fourth player in history with a streak of 12 or more seasons with at at least 30 doubles. The others: Stan Musial, Tris Speaker and Honus Wagner.

Cano hit a line drive into the right-center gap in the first inning, but his shot at a 30th double was undone when Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge threw him out at second base.

CONTROL FREAK

The one-out walk Seth Smith drew in the third inning was the first base on balls allowed by Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka since July 27 at Houston. During his four-game streak between walks, Tanaka struck out 31.

ON TAP

The Mariners begin a two-city road trip at 5:10 p.m. (PDT) Thursday with the first of four games against the White Sox in Chicago. Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (1-1, 9.42) will start for the Sox against a Mariners pitcher yet to be named.

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