SEATTLE -- Things didn't go according to plan in Justin Smoak's debut. In his first day with the Mariners, Smoak went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. It was a disappointing start for a player who arrived in Seattle amid high hopes that came with being part of the trade for ace left-hander Cliff Lee. He was brought in to be the club's regular first baseman, but he took a step back from that role in Sunday's series finale against the Yankees. Manager Don Wakamatsu deployed Smoak as the designated hitter and started Casey Kotchman at first.
Wakamatsu said the switch allows Smoak a chance to rest after arriving from Texas on Saturday, as well as giving usual designated hitter Russell Branyan an extra day off heading into the All-Star break. Of course, it also lets Smoak focus on what the Mariners desperately need him to do: hit. He mostly faced offspeed pitches on Saturday, and Wakamatsu said he expects that to continue. "I keep trying to get people to understand, this kid is just starting his career, really," Wakamatsu said. "To be traded and come over with the expectations and all those things, he's got to work some things out. We've seen him, and I've seen him. He's awfully impressive, but we're going to have to be patient with him."