Mariners send down .189-hitting Justin Smoak

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The Mariners have finally seen enough; Justin Smoak was demoted after a fourth straight hitless game Monday in the loss to the Yankees. He was 1-for-20 with 12 strikeouts over his previous six games, dropping his average to .189.

In truth, the Mariners likely would have sent Smoak to Triple-A  few weeks ago had they possessed anyone worth replacing him. Mike Carp is finally set to be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday, and while he started the year in left field, he’ll likely play first base for now.

The Mariners may not have completely given up on the 25-year-old Smoak, the key player they received from Texas in the Cliff Lee deal two years ago, but it’s doubtful they’ll be quick to bring him back. While he did have 13 homers in 344 at-bats, they came with a .253 on-base percentage. His slugging percentage was also held down by the fact that he had just six doubles.

It’s likely that Smoak will get his job back in September as the Mariners try to decide whether he should be included in their plans for 2013. After drafting catcher Mike Zunino third overall last month, the Mariners may consider trying Jesus Montero as their first baseman next year.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.