Updated Jul 23, 2012 - 10:54 am
Once again the Mariners went on the road and did what the Mariners do on the road. They come home after a 5-2 trip with plenty of positives.
Five wins. A bullpen that fought its way through adversity and the loss of an important arm. Felix was Felix while Hisashi Iwakuma and Blake Beavan showed something a little different. Good different.
Tom Wilhelmsen, as good as he already is, decided to mix in another pitch with the changeup -- and that appeared to make him even better. The team played clean baseball right up until Ichiro made an unnecessary throw to third Saturday.
They scored runs in bunches in Kansas City and the pitchers protected slim leads in in Tampa. All good.
By all means enjoy the wins, but there are a couple of concerns that are hard to overlook. I have said all along that this season is not about wins and losses, it is about the development of the young core players. More often than not this comes up after losses. Only fair that it should come up after wins too because it is still about the development of these young players that are so important to the future success of this organization.
Dustin Ackley has continued to struggle after the All-Star break, going 6-for-37 with nine strikeouts in eight games. (AP)
The break came and went and the same team that left Oakland that Sunday afternoon took the field against Texas the next Friday. Wedge said that he and Jack Zduriencik determined that it was not time to make moves. He wanted to give his players a chance to relax and play relaxed and hoped that the four days off would contribute to that.
Since then we have seen a few players start to take off with Michael Saunders and Casper Wells hitting well in nearly-everyday play. John Jaso and Jesus Montero have hit as well with Jaso putting up a .467 average in limited starts mainly against righties and Montero picking up 13 hits since then, including 11 against lefties. This is all good as these players are a part of the Mariners' future.
Then there are two players who are an important part of the Mariners' future who are going in the wrong direction since the break. Dustin Ackley, who got a day off Sunday, is hitting just .162/.244/.568 in his last eight games. Justin Smoak has been even worse, hitting just .100 since the break and striking out 14 times in 40 at-bats. He clearly is not going in the right direction.
Mike Carp's rehab assignment must end Monday as he will have hit the maximum 20 days allowed. He is out of options and must come back to the Mariners or be designated for assignment before he could be reassigned to Tacoma. He hasn't exactly been tearing it up with the bat but the Mariners need to get an extended look at him while he's healthy. A move will have to be made, and while Carlos Peguero was the last position player called up I think at this point it would be more beneficial to send either Smoak or Ackley out. Both have had nearly four months to settle in and neither have done so.
While the desire of the organization may be to have these players learn at the major-league level, I think we are getting to the point where it is no longer beneficial to have them continue to struggle on the big stage. They may be getting experience but what they are doing at the plate is clearly not working, and if it isn't working at this point then maybe a step back needs to be taken. For their sake.
What is the worst thing that could happen at this point?
Trips to Tacoma have benefited players like Wells, Shawn Kelley and by what we saw Sunday perhaps Beavan as well. Why wouldn't you want to give others the same opportunity to work away from the lights?
We shall see what happens Monday.
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