BY John Hickey 06:46PM 04/19/2011

Mariners bring up Peguero

Rookie outfielder in big leagues after a 12-game stop at Tacoma with Mariners needing emergency help because they had to place first baseman Justin Smoak on the bereavement list.

Justin Smoak was placed on the bereavement list Tuesday; his father passed away Tuesday night. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The last time Carlos Peguero was in Safeco Field, he dropped jaws.

It was as part of a workout following Tacoma’s return to the Northwest at the end of spring training that Peguero worked his way into local legend.

Rainiers coach Alonzo Powell was throwing batting practice and Peguero was in taking his hacks. He got hold of one Powell serve and hit it out to center. And not just over the 8-foot wall that enclosed the field, but over the 40-foot high batters eye behind it.

“When I hit that one,’’ Peguero says, “the guys said to me, ‘My gawd, that was a bomb.’ ’’

Now the Mariners get a chance to see a little of that power that they’ve only heard about. Peguero was called up to the big leagues Tuesday to take the place of first baseman Justin Smoak. Smoak left the team to be with his seriously ill father Tuesday morning; y Tuesday evening, his father had passed way. The first baseman has been placed on the bereavement list, which extends from a minimum of three days to a maximum of seven days.

Peguero was not in Tuesday’s starting lineup, but manager Eric Wedge said he would get the 24-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder into the lineup sooner rather than later.

Considering that Peguero had never played above Double-A until beginning the season with Tacoma, he’s in the big leagues faster than expected, and his stay could be brief.

Carlos Peguero

But as Wedge said, “we’ve seen guys parlay a chance like this into’’ sticking in the big leagues.

Peguero was off to a fast start with Tacoma, hitting .311 in 12 games with three doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. He hit 23 homers with Double-A West Tennessee last year while averaging .254 and driving in 73 runs, and two years ago he dominated California League pitching with 31 homers and 98 RBIs while playing for High Desert (San Bernardino).

“This is one of the best days of my life,’’ Peguero said. “I’m excited about it. My whole family and friends are excited about it.’’

Peguero said his first telephone call was to his mother back in the Dominican Republic. His first words were to the effect “mom, you’d better sit down.’’

He followed that with, “Mom, I’m in the big leagues.’’

“She was so excited she was crying,’’ Peguero said. “We were both crying. It’s an exciting time.’’

Wedge now has a glut of outfielders and a shortage of first basemen until Smoak returns. The Mariners’ starter at first base Tuesday against Detroit was backup catcher Chris Gimenez, a right-handed hitter going against Tigers’ left-handed starter Phil Coke. When right-handers pitch, the left-handed Adam Kennedy is likely to get the call, although outfielder Ryan Langerhans has a little experience there and could fit into the equation.

Managers don’t like having both their catchers in the lineup, but Wedge is willing to push it a bit, because it doesn’t figure to be for long. On the other hand, there is no telling when Smoak – the club’s hottest hitter at .291 with two homers and 11 RBIs – will be back.

“We’ll give him as much time as he needs,’’ Wedge said. “When it comes to family, everything else is secondary.’’

Meanwhile, Peguero can consider this an audition.

“He was at the top of the list of players I liked coming out of spring training,’’ Wedge said. “He’s had a nice start to the season, too, and that definitely is part of it.’’

The Mariners need all the help they can get, considering that they are last in the American League with a .217 team batting average and are first in the Major Leagues in men left on base.

And Wedge is trying to put the best face he can on the situation.

“Ultimately when you are leaving this many men on base, it’s good and bad,’’ he said. “It’s good that we are getting these men on base, but we are not finishing off at-bats, not finishing off innings. A lot of the time we just need one hit.’’

It’s yet to be seen if Peguero will be the one to deliver it.

NOTES: Asked if left fielder Milton Bradley’s use of earplugs to dim the sound of the razzing he gets from time to time was a problem in Bradley hearing what goes on in the game, Wedge said it was not an issue. “Milton is doing well, and this allows him to focus more and allows him to concentrate,’’ the manager said. “If it helps him, so be it. He’s done a very good job early in the year busting it and getting after it.’’ … Reliever Josh Lueke said he was completely over the shellacking he took at the hands of the Tigers Monday when he gave up three runs while getting just one out in the seventh inning, part of Detroit’s game-winning six-run rally. “There will be more like that,’’ Lueke said. “It’s part of the job. Hopefully there will be a lot more that are a lot better.’’ … David Aardsma (left hip surgery) starts an injury rehabilitation assignment Tuesday in Tacoma. The Mariners want him to get three or four appearances before getting him back. … Franklin Gutierrez left Tuesday for Minnesota and a visit with the doctors at the Mayo Clinic in hopes that they will diagnose just what the problem is with his stomach and will come up with a cure. Meanwhile Wedge admits that not having his Gold Glove-winning center fielder in the field has hurt the team’s defense. “If the ball gets over our heads (occasionally), I’m OK with it,’’ Wedge said. “But there are a few in-between balls – between left and center and center and right and in front of the outfielders and behind the infielders – are a problem. Early on, there’s been a big difference not having Guti.’’

Twitter: @JHickey3


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