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.