Justin Smoak expected to open the season as the Mariners’ primary first baseman

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The Mariners are coming off an active winter in which they added Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay, but those moves will not have an impact on Justin Smoak’s job security at first base. At least not immediately.

According to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, Mariners manager Eric Wedge said today that Smoak will begin the season as the primary first baseman barring “something drastic.” His reasoning is that he would prefer to stay away from making a decision based on spring training performance.

“I think you do,” he said. “Spring training is a part of it, but it’s by no means the biggest part of it as far as I’m concerned. You’ve got to look at everything. With guys that we’ve already had, the history helps us. Because there are so many indicators, both good and bad, that you can work off of.”

While it’s true that too much can be made from the small sample of spring training games, it can also be argued that Smoak has already had his fair share of chances. The 26-year-old owns a lousy .223/.306/.377 batting line over his first three seasons in the majors. Still, the Mariners appear intrigued by his strong finish last season, especially with the fences moving in at Safeco Field.

Assuming the Mariners hold firm to their plan, Morales will open the season as the primary DH while Morse will play left field, Michael Saunders will start in right and Ibanez will bounce around a bit. Of course, that dynamic could change pretty quickly if Smoak struggles out of the gate.

Rays pitcher Brent Honeywell leaves BP session with possible injury

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This is not good: Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rays pitcher Brent Honeywell cut short a bullpen session this morning and left the field with a trainer. Topkin says Honeywell was “clearly upset” as he made his way into the clubhouse and “cursed loudly a few times.”

Obviously you don’t want to assume the worst, but that’s often the behavior of a pitcher who experienced a serious injury. We will get updates later and will provide an update when we hear.

UPDATE:

Honeywell, probably the Rays’ top prospect, is slated to make his major league debut early this season, though possibly not for a few weeks into the season due to off days. Eventually, though, it is assumed he’d slot in someplace behind Chris Archer, Matt Andriese, Nathan Eovaldi, Jake Faria, and Blake Snell, either as a young-David Price-style swingman, a spot starter or a regular starter at some point.

Last year Honeywell posted a 3.49 ERA and 172/35 K/BB ratio in 136. innings in 26 starts between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.