By Brent Stecker
Much was made of the Mariners' revamped offense after a record-setting spring training, but the team has leveled off at the plate in recent weeks - through Saturday, Seattle is last in the American League with a .218 batting average and second-to-last in strikeouts with 156.
Mariners outfielder Michael Morse's team-leading six home runs have come with a price - he also leads the team with 18 strikeouts and sports a poor .230 batting average. (AP)
While young players like Kyle Seager (.239 batting average), Justin Smoak (.200) and Dustin Ackley (.153) have struggled in big roles, Mariners manager Eric Wedge told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" that veterans like Raul Ibanez (.174) and Michael Morse (.230, team-leading 18 strikeouts) are just as responsible for the team's lackluster performance.
"I don't think it's really just the young kids. I think it's a combination of the veterans as well as the young kids," Wedge said of the Mariners' offensive woes. "With Smoak and Ackley, I think we've seen signs of them coming around. Ackley hit the ball hard three times (Wednesday), Smoak's been a little bit better. Seager's had his struggles. But that's why we got those veteran guys, that's why we brought them in here. ... When an area of your club struggles, the other areas have to pick you up, (and) that's what we gotta continue to work to do."
That doesn't mean Wedge is letting the younger Mariners off the hook. He said Seattle's core of youthful hitters won't be able to use their age as an excuse for poor performances much longer.
"I think it's this year (you stop calling those players young). I don't think it's right now, but I think it's over the course of this year," said Wedge. "When you talk about between two and three years, that's when you should be getting real close to being the player that you should be close to being for the rest of your career. ... We still are young, but in regard to the position players, they need to put that behind them. They're still learning, and they're gonna continue to learn, but making a series of adjustments -- whether it be from game to game or at-bat to at-bat or hopefully within an at-bat -- those things need to start happening."
Wedge said the team's approach at the plate as a whole has declined during the regular season.
"I think the biggest thing we saw in spring training was just the strength in the box, the balance, and the overall approach -- getting out over the plate and really being in the position to strike the baseball," he said. "We've gotten away from that a little bit. ... I really do believe (in Spring Training) offensively we showed the type of team we're capable of being. ... We're a lot better than what you've seen now."
Considering their troubles at the plate, the Mariners are lucky to sit just a half-game out of third place in the AL West with a 7-12 record. And because of that, Wedge said it isn't time to hit the panic button.
"We've played well; we just haven't hit. We're not off to the start that we would like. I'm not happy about it, but having said that, it's not a panic situation by any means," Wedge said. "What we need to do is just fix what we need to fix, and trust in the length of season, trust in the talent we have here and keep moving forward. The focus has to be on our players and them performing, and different areas of our club doing what they're supposed to do. And that's how we're going to win games -- we're going to be a complete team.
"We know we should be a much better offensive club, and we will be a much better offensive club than we are showing right now. We've got a long way to go, but we need to start chipping away at that."