SEATTLE -- The struggles continue at the plate for first baseman Justin Smoak, but the confidence Mariners manager Eric Wedge has in him has not wavered."Being a switch-hitter, first of all, is harder, first and foremost," Wedge said. "In regard to being short [with his swing], that's just more of a fundamental thing with him. He has times where he's short to the ball and you see him drive it, other times he gets long. That's one of the reasons he's having some issues right now. It's just about solidifying that swing and being more consistent with it." Smoak has hobbled to a .178 average out of the gates, with just three home runs and 10 RBIs. Additionally, his slugging percentage is just .271. But Wedge said it's part of the byproduct of being expected to contribute in the middle of a young lineup. "It's like anything else when you're in a pressure situation or you're up against it or you're feeling it a little bit," Wedge said. "That's when you have to back off the gas a little bit and you have to not be in such a hurry to get hits, to have success. "You've got to keep it in perspective, you've got to understand where you're at with everything. If you can go up there with that kind of heartbeat and you can go up there developing a little bit of confidence along the way, like he will, then next thing you know you start baby-stepping and have success. And it keeps domino-ing from there."
Jaso leading off as Wedge shakes up lineup
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge shook up his lineup for Wednesday's rubber match against the Tigers -- and it sure was unusual.John Jaso became just the second catcher in club history to hit leadoff, joining Bob Stinson, who did it twice in 1978. This marks the 52nd time the former Rays player has led off. "The only difference is my approach. When I get my first at-bat in the game, I want to gather information," Jaso said. "But the only thing that come into play is different situations and runners on base, like get them over kind of situations. But if those are there, it might make me want to swing at the first pitch a little bit more. "When you're the leadoff hitter in the lineup, none of those situations are there, so you know beforehand you can be more selective. Doesn't mean that I won't swing at the first pitch I see. If the timing and everything is right, I will swing. But I know that that situation won't be there, so, if need be, I can gather more information about the pitcher." Jaso entered Wednesday's game hitting .306 with one home run and seven RBIs this season. In 51 games leading off entering Wednesday, Jaso was hitting .262 with three home runs, 17 RBIs and 30 walks. "He's over the plate, he gives himself a chance with every pitch, he has good hands, he doesn't get in a hurry up there and he trusts himself with two strikes," Wedge said. Further lineup changes for the series finale included Kyle Seager moving from third base to second for regular leadoff hitter Dustin Ackley, who received a normal day off. Alex Liddi started at third for Seager, and Casper Wells and Chone Figgins started in left and center field, respectively.
Ackley not concerned with slow start
SEATTLE -- Despite a slow start to the season offensively, Dustin Ackley isn't spending any extra time worrying."I don't look at it as frustrating overall," he said. "It's still real early. ... It's something I feel like I'll continue to improve, my swing is getting better, and it's just a matter of time before things start happening." Ackley, who has been the regular leadoff hitter since Chone Figgins moved into a utility role in early May, said he has seen a few things in his swing that he's been doing wrong. Those have spurred minor adjustments, he said. "They're not huge adjustments. It's not like I'm batting .100 right now and can't even see a pitch," said Ackley, who received a rare off day on Wednesday. "If I was swinging at pitches in the dirt or doing a lot of bad things, I'd be a little more worried, but I'm still seeing the ball well, still scratching out hits and I'm still in the .230, .240 range in the first month. I feel I'm right within striking distance, and hopefully I get hot here soon."
Franklin Gutierrez, originally on the 15-day disabled list for a partially torn pectoral muscle, was in Seattle on Wednesday to get his heel looked at. Wedge said there is no new problem, but the plantar fasciitis is not going to go away soon and Gutierrez will be off his feet for three to four days. Wedge did say everything is OK with Gutierrez's original pectoral injury. Wedge is optimistic right-hander Blake Beavan will be able to make his next start. It is currently undecided, though, if Beavan -- who took a line drive off his elbow on Monday -- will make that start on his scheduled day of Sunday. If he can't go that soon, Wedge said it is a realistic option -- because of Thursday's off-day -- to push back the rotation and start either Kevin Millwood or Jason Vargas on regular rest.