The Mariners Friday placed OF Michael Saunders on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle and recalled 1B Justin Smoak from AAA Tacoma. Smoak, who began the season as Seattle’s starting first baseman, was available Friday night when the Mariners begin a three-game series against division-leading Oakland.
Talking with reporters before the game, manager Lloyd McClendon acknowledged that oblique strains can take a relatively long time to heal.
“It’s a grade two strain, and I don’t want to speculate, but it will be a while,” he said. “Smoak has been swinging the bat well lately. I hope he can give us a little lift.”
Smoak was in the starting lineup Friday, hitting sixth, while his recent replacement at first base, Logan Morrison, was the DH hitting cleanup. After sitting out two games, Dustin Ackley was in left field, hitting seventh.
Smoak, 27, hit .284 (21×74) with four doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs in 19 games with the Rainiers. From June 29 to July 10, Smoak hit .325 (13×40) with a double and two home runs. He collected hits in his last four AAA games (12×19/.632), including two home runs July 9 at Salt Lake City.
Before going on the 15-day disabled list June 11 with a strained left quad, he hit .208 with 12 doubles and seven home runs in 63 games.
The Mariners recalled Smoak from his rehab assignment July 4 and optioned him to Tacoma, preferring to stick with Logan Morrison at first base.
Saunders, 27, left Thursday night’s game with Minnesota in the middle of an at-bat in the eighth with pain in his left side. An MRI exam Friday confirmed the damage.
Saunders hit .276 (54-for-196) with seven doubles, three triples, six home runs and 28 RBIs in 65 games. Since May 16, he hit .313 (35×112) with four doubles, two triples, five home runs and 21 RBIs in 31 games. This is his second disabled list stint of the season. He was on the DL June 12-June 27 with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Felix Hernandez (10-2, 2.11) goes for his 11th win of the year Friday night in his final Safeco Field appearance prior to the All-Star break. Hernandez, widely expected to start Tuesday for the American League, will be opposed by RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 1.29), who will be making his second start for the Athletics after his acquisition from the Chicago Cubs.