Struggling Smoak gets a breather

Struggling Smoak gets a breather

SEATTLE -- The Mariners need Justin Smoak's power bat in the middle of their lineup, to the point where manager Eric Wedge has kept penciling him in even as the power has dropped in recent weeks.

But Wedge decided Friday his young first baseman needs a break, as he's gone just 1-for-22 over the past six games and hasn't hit a home run since June 12 in Detroit, a streak of 25 games without a long ball.

Though Smoak still leads the club in RBIs with 42 and shares the home run lead with Miguel Olivo at 12, his batting average has dropped to .229. Thus, Wedge gave Smoak the day off Friday against Texas, even though the club is just one game out of the All-Star break and Smoak was used at designated hitter on Thursday in an effort to lighten his load.

"I'm convinced a lot of this is just him getting fatigued and I have to take responsibility for that, too," Wedge said. "You pretty much have to do what you have to do when you're trying to score runs. We knew the break was coming, so give him a little break and get him back in there. I'm convinced he'll have a pretty good second half for us."

Smoak has hit some balls hard in recent days. He flew out to the outfield three straight times Thursday before singling in his final at-bat to break an 0-for-21 stretch.

"I honestly haven't felt that bad," said the 25-year-old. "It's just one of those things you go through and hopefully something will turn around here."

Smoak insists he isn't physically tired from the daily grind of being a full-time starter for the first time.

"Not really. You want to play every day," he said. "That's what I want to do, and that's the plan. But it's a long year. It's my first full year here, so it's one of those things where he wants to give me a few days. He wanted to do that earlier in the year, but he just couldn't do it."

Wedge said the rest day was "pre-planned" in order to maximize the All-Star break, though he wanted to give Smoak a shot at left-hander Derek Holland on Thursday. Smoak is hitting .283 from the right side, .206 from the left.

"He'll be back in there the next couple days [as Texas comes with two more lefties]," Wedge said. "I'm just a big believer in when you come out of the break, what you do before and after is only the real opportunity to give somebody extended time to rest or work on something. And that's what we're doing with Smoaker.

"I think back to earlier in the year and just felt his timing was better, he was staying through the ball a little better and barreling up the ball better. He's such a good hitter. I think sometimes we forget how young he is and the fact this is his first full year. A lot of what he's going through right now is just the league making adjustments to him."