Justin Smoak is off the disabled list after missing nearly a month with a strained quadriceps, but instead of simply adding him to the active roster the Mariners demoted the first baseman to Triple-A.
Smoak really struggled before the injury, hitting .208 with seven homers and a .643 OPS in 63 games, which is a 100-point drop from his 2013 production.
Logan Morrison has been serving as Seattle’s everyday first baseman and rather than shifting him back to the outfield the Mariners will leave him there and stick with Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders in the corner spots while using the newly activated Corey Hart at designated hitter.
Last year was just the second time in Smoak’s career that he’s been an above-average hitter, so the Mariners may simply be ready to give up on the 27-year-old former top prospect.
Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.
The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.
The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.
In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.