Mariners send struggling Justin Smoak to minors

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The Mariners have sent Justin Smoak to Triple-A Tacoma, according to Jim Street of MLB.com.

The 23-year-old first baseman has struggled miserably since being being acquired from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade on July 9, batting just .159/.169/.270 with two home runs, five RBI and a pathetic 23/1 K/BB ratio over 63 at-bats. He was marred in a 2-for-38 slide.

The former 2008 first-round pick is batting .198/.288/.336 with 10 homers, 39 RBI and a 57/38 K/BB ratio over his first 235 at-bats in the big leagues, including a .173 batting average and 541 OPS against left-handers.

Smoak wasn’t expected to be a major power bat, but he was highly-regarded for his plate discipline, so I’d have to think that’s something of a mirage. Hopefully a few weeks in the PCL will help him get his confidence back.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.