With the off-season additions of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, the Mariners were seemingly stockpiling first base types. But according to manager Lloyd McClendon, first base is Justin Smoak’s to lose. Despite hitting .238, Smoak showed improvement last season, setting a career-high in home runs (20), slugging percentage (.412), and on-base percentage (.334).
Via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune:
“I told him he’s my first baseman,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I told him that this winter. Having said that, he still has to go out and perform. I like what I see (this spring) from him. He’s doing a pretty darn good job.”
The Mariners recently avoided arbitration with Smoak, agreeing to a one-year, $2.7875 million deal with a $3.65 million club option for 2015. He is eligible for arbitration going into 2016 and can become a free agent after the 2016 season concludes. The Mariners are hoping he can continue making progress as he nears free agency, giving them a good reason to sign him to an extension.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.