Is it time for Mariners to demote Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak to Triple-A?


Thanks in large part to Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders, the Mariners offense hasn’t been as bad as expected this year. The team is struggling mightily right now, though, having scored just four runs in four games, and if changes are going to come, this would seem to be right part of the schedule to make them.

Dustin Ackley is hitting just .220 with two extra-base hits in 82 at-bats this month. He is walking quite a bit, but he’s also striking out a whole lot. With 24 strikeouts this month, he’s up to 67 in 281 at-bats for the season. Overall, he’s hitting .242/.318/.335.

Justin Smoak is doing even worse, and the homers are no longer obscuring that fact. He’s gone hitless in five straight games, leaving him at .206/.268/.341 for the season. He does have 11 homers in 267 at-bats, but they’re not making up for the absence of singles and doubles. In fact, he has just three doubles all season.

The Mariners are currently prepared to stay the course, manager Eric Wedge told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Which makes sense. They weren’t expected to contend in the AL West this year anyway, and they don’t have any obvious upgrades awaiting in the minors. For all of Ackley’s struggles lately, he’s still not having that awful of a season. He has a respectable .722 OPS outside of Safeco. Smoak, if nothing else, is on pace for 23 homers and 67 RBI.

If the Mariners did make a move, it’d be more along the lines of a wake-up call than anything else. They know Ackley is the future at second base. They still have to figure out whether Smoak is a long-term answer. They certainly want him to be, but he now has 1,042 major league at-bats and a career OPS of .677. With Mike Zunino drafted to be the catcher of the future, the Mariners could move on from Smoak if he fails to improve and go to Jesus Montero at first base.

But nothing is happening right now. There isn’t really anyone to replace Ackley in Triple-A. Alex Liddi could step in at first if needed, but he’s a weaker bet than Smoak. If Smoak is still slumping when Mike Carp is ready to come off the DL, perhaps in three or four weeks, then maybe the Mariners will make the change. As is, they’re just going to hope for the best.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.