Mariners' lefties finding ways to handle shift

Mariners' lefties finding ways to handle shift

Mariners' lefties finding ways to handle shift

SEATTLE -- Rays manager Joe Maddon is the master of the infield shift, moving his defenders around more than any skipper in the Majors to tighten the field to the pull side of left-handed hitters. The Mariners have faced Tampa Bay twice in the past month and their southpaws are growing used to the tactic.

Part of the point of the shift is to make hitters change their approach, since having three infielders between first and second base leaves the left side open to a potential bunt or push single.

"It's hard to ignore," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "They're human, they see it. But you can't let it get in your head. Joe has always been about being drastic. That's just the way he goes about his business, which is fine. But it's our job to just go out there and do what we do. I think as these players become a little more experienced, they'll be able to manipulate and work through that a little better. You can't let it take you out of your game."

Kyle Seager attempted to lay down a bunt against the shift on Saturday and has done that successfully before against the Rays. Justin Smoak solved it the best way, driving a home run to the opposite field in his first at-bat Saturday against Chris Archer.

But Smoak admits he's thought about dropping down a bunt against the shift, even though he can't remember bunting since he came to Seattle.

"It'll happen one of these days against that shift," he said. "You try to ignore it. But some time I'm going to lay one down. They're still going to shift me, because they won't think I'll do it again. I was up there right-handed once [Saturday] and [second baseman Ben] Zobrist was on the other side of second base."

Wedge said the best way to beat the shift is to just to be able to hit the ball well to all fields and listed Seager as a batter who will eventually make that hard for the Rays.

"As he continues to play, they're not going to continue to shift on him," Wedge said. "He's too good a hitter. He'll be spraying the ball all over the place."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.