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.

Cardinals-White Sox opener pushed back to Saturday

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CHICAGO — St. Louis’ series opener against the Chicago White Sox has been postponed to Saturday, giving the Cardinals an extra day to recover from a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Cardinals, who haven’t played since July 29, were set to resume their season Friday night in Chicago. But the series opener was pushed back to a straight doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, the beginning of an extended stay in the Windy City for the Cards.

There was no word from Major League Baseball on the postponement, but John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations for the Cardinals, confirmed the move in a conference call with reporters. Mozeliak also said the team is going to play doubleheaders on Monday and Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field after the NL Central rivals had a series postponed last weekend.

Two people with direct knowledge of the situation also confirmed the postponement of the series opener against the White Sox. The people spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because MLB had not announced the schedule change.

The Cardinals’ season has been derailed by the coronavirus. Star catcher Yadier Molina and infielder Paul DeJong are among the players who have tested positive.

St. Louis, the defending NL Central champions, has played just five games, winning two. It seems unlikely that it will be able to make up every one of its games that have been postponed during the pandemic-delayed season.

While announcing Sunday night that St. Louis’ series against Pittsburgh had been postponed, MLB said the league and the Cardinals believed it was “prudent to conduct additional testing while players and staff are quarantined before the team returns to play.”