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Smoak sent to Triple-A as Ramirez rejoins Mariners

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Smoak sent to Triple-A as Ramirez rejoins Mariners play video for Smoak sent to Triple-A as Ramirez rejoins Mariners

SEATTLE -- The Mariners optioned first baseman Justin Smoak to Triple-A Tacoma after Monday night's 5-2 victory over the Mets to open a roster spot for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who will be recalled and start Tuesday night's game against New York at Safeco Field.

Smoak went 0-for-3 on Monday night and is batting .208 on the season. He hit .200 (4-for-20) since being recalled from Tacoma on July 11.

"Listen, it's tough. We got three first basemen," manager Lloyd McClendon said, noting Logan Morrison and Corey Hart play there as well as utility man Willie Bloomquist. "Right now, it's just the way it is, it's tough. The numbers just don't add up. I told him just go down, play well, and hopefully he'll be back here."

Ramirez will fill a rotation spot that has been open since Taijuan Walker was sent down prior to the All-Star break.

Ramirez, 24, has gone 1-4 with a 4.58 ERA in 11 starts for Seattle in previous stints with the club this season. The youngster from Nicaragua is 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA in nine starts for Tacoma.

The Mariners haven't listed a starter yet for Wednesday's series finale with the Mets, though they've announced they'll push veteran right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez back a day to face the Orioles on Thursday and Friday at Safeco Field.

Walker pitched five innings of one-run ball for Tacoma on Friday at Reno, so he'd be available to throw on regular rest on Wednesday if the Mariners choose to recall him. Or they could opt for another spot start for long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, who went 2 2/3 innings in that role against the Twins before the All-Star break and then threw a career-high four innings of relief in Seattle's 16-inning loss to the Angels on Friday.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said he wanted to see how Ramirez's start goes Tuesday before determining Wednesday's starter, the presumption there being that if the bullpen is heavily taxed Tuesday it would eliminate the idea of going with Wilhelmsen and a bullpen day the following afternoon.

"We haven't decided that yet," McClendon said of the Wednesday situation. "Obviously a lot depends on how [Ramirez] does, so we'll see."

Iwakuma will start Thursday's series opener with the Orioles, with Hernandez now slated to pitch Friday, followed by Chris Young and Roenis Elias on Saturday and Sunday.

McClendon said he wants to give his starters an extra day of rest whenever possible as they maneuver through the long season and took note when Iwakuma tired earlier than usual in his Friday start in Anaheim, saying he got a little out of rhythm over the All-Star break.

"Nothing has changed," McClendon said. "I've said the same thing all year. When I've got an opportunity to give them extra days, I'll do it. One of the tell tale signs is my starter came off the break and pitched 77 pitches and was a little fatigued. So when I can do it, I'll do it.

"I think it's for the benefit of the entire staff, not just two pitchers," he said. "This is a grind. Nothing was more grueling than the series in Anaheim. This is a grind. If people think it's easy to go out there every five days and throw 110 pitches, it's tough. When you can take care of them and give them an extra day, particularly for their legs and arm, just do it. My job is to look at the whole picture, not one start for any one player. I know what we're doing is the right thing to do. It gives them extra days and keeps them sharp, keeps them strong, to go from start to finish throughout the entire season."

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.

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