Mariners grant Justin Smoak another look

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It could be do-or-die time for Justin Smoak.

With Mike Carp returning to the disabled list because of a strained groin, the Mariners brought Smoak back to the majors on Tuesday. He’ll likely play regularly at first base as the team tries to determine whether to include him in its plans for 2013.

Smoak hit just .242 and failed to homer in 20 games for Triple-A Tacoma. Obviously, that’s not very encouraging at all. The good news is that he had a 16/16 K/BB ratio in his 66 at-bats. He was at 85/29 K/BB in 344 at-bats for the Mariners this season. And while he didn’t homer in his stint at Tacoma, he did have six doubles. That’s just as many doubles as he managed in five times as many at-bats for Seattle.

Smoak is still relatively young at 25, but he’s had 1,119 major league at-bats to prove himself and he’s currently sporting a .215/.297/.365 line. If he doesn’t take a big step forward in the Mariners’ final 45 games, the team will have to weigh giving up on him and installing Jesus Montero at first base going forward. Montero isn’t going to last at catcher, a point the Mariners seemed to concede when they drafted Mike Zunino third overall in June,  and given that he’s struggled mightily as a DH this year, first base might be the best long-term option for him.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.

The Blue Jays are allergic to .500

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The Blue Jays dropped Thursday afternoon’s game to the Rangers 11-4, splitting the four-game home series. And, impressively, the Blue Jays failed for the ninth time to get back to .500. The club is now 35-37.

Here’s a look at all the times the Blue Jays could’ve evened out their won-lost record and what happened:

  • April 5 (0-1): Lost 3-1 to the Orioles
  • April 7 (1-2): Lost 10-8 to the Rays
  • June 1 (26-27): Lost 12-2 to the Yankees
  • June 3 (27-28): Lost 7-0 to the Yankees
  • June 5 (28-29): Lost 5-3 to the Athletics
  • June 13 (31-32): Lost 8-1 to the Rays
  • June 16 (32-33): Lost 11-4 to the White Sox
  • June 20 (34-35): Lost 6-1 to the Rangers
  • June 22 (35-36): Lost 11-4 to the Rangers

The Blue Jays are now a half-game behind the Orioles for fifth place in the AL East, but they’re only 5.5 games behind the first-place Yankees. Interestingly, if the Blue Jays played in the NL East and had the same record, they would be in second place. But even the Phillies — baseball’s worst team — have been at .500 or better for a few days: after winning Opening Day and after game Nos. 6, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22.