SEATTLE -- Justin Smoak finally had the chance to see some consistent playing time on the last road trip in Oakland and Anaheim, where the first baseman finished 7-for-24 with two runs and an RBI.
It's been a tumultuous season for the 24-year-old, who took just six at-bats in August because of a left thumb injury and a fractured nose. But if history repeats itself, Smoak should finish strong this year.
Smoak is hitting .324 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in his career from the start of September through the end of the season.
But at this point, staying on the field would probably keep Smoak happy. After spending nearly his entire career healthy, he's had the injury bug this season with the left thumb, fractured nose and a right thumb injury that kept him out earlier this year.
In the first at-bat of Smoak's rehab stint at Triple-A Tacoma, the South Carolina native was hit by a pitch.
"It was like, 'Here we go again,'" Smoak said, shaking his head.
His stats in four games with Tacoma weren't pretty -- 0-for-11, one run, three walks. But Smoak says he's simply concentrating on getting back into a routine.
"I mean, when you're out for three weeks to a month, you've got to get your rhythm and timing back," he said. "I had some good at-bats there. It's just good to get back on the field and get back to swinging in game situations."
Wedge preaches patience with young players
SEATTLE -- Many Mariners fans might have been puzzled that starting pitcher Charlie Furbush was left in for the eighth inning of Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Anaheim. But to manager Eric Wedge, the experience was a perfect example of how to make his young players better for the future.
Furbush had gone seven shutout innings, but gave up a single to Erick Aybar and walked Alberto Callaspo in the eighth with a slim 1-0 Seattle lead. The lefty stayed on the mound and gave up a decisive two-run double to Maicer Izturis before being pulled.
With his team getting in from Anaheim at 4 a.m. PT Thursday, Wedge canceled batting practice and instead of meeting the media in the dugout, he conducted the daily session from the friendly confines of his clubhouse office. He talked about his decision to leave Furbush in, and also provided some insight into his managing style this season.
"Every night is an experience. Every night, somebody gets better and goes through something they need to go through and the next time they go through it, they'll have that experience," Wedge said. "Furbush is a great example of that last night. You stick with guys and find out more about them and find out quicker about them."
Any time this topic is brought up, Wedge repeats that winning is always priority No. 1: "Nobody wants to win games more than I do," Wedge said Thursday.
But when wins and losses don't mean as much -- the Mariners have been realistically out of the postseason race since their 17-game losing streak in July -- helping rookies soak in as much of the Major League experience, good or bad, is beneficial in many ways. Wednesday night was just another example of that.
"I felt like I learned a lot last night being in that situation. I can't remember the last time I was pitching in the eighth," said Furbush, who spent time in the bullpen earlier this season with Detroit. "I learned a lot. I've never done that and am definitely looking forward to getting that opportunity again."
Wedge discussed what could have happened had he not left his starter out there on Wednesday.
"If I pull Furbush out one [inning] too early right there, there are three to four different things that didn't happen that did happen to him that he will be better for the next time," Wedge said. "We were able to witness it, he was able to witness it and he'll be stronger for it. If I pull him out, he may think he might throw a shutout, he may be [ticked] because he got pulled -- that's focusing on all the wrong things."
"Now, if we were fighting for the playoffs this year, he may not go out there in the eighth or we get someone ready after the first guy gets on," Wedge continued. "You have to have the discipline to be able to do that. I don't expect people to understand that, but I've been through it before and it's what you have to do."
Wedge has certainly been through this situation before. He managed the Indians from 2003-09 and went through a rebuilding phase that he says was even more drastic than Seattle's right now. Wedge remembers the Cleveland organization telling him that it needed "name recognition," so the fans knew who the players were and not have a musical chairs lineup going on all season, much like the Mariners this season.
Those young Indians included Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Franklin Gutierrez and Jake Westbrook, just to name a few. The youngsters had to go through the same thing many of the current Mariners are doing now in terms of making mistakes and learning from them.
"Nobody knew those names and that's kind of where we are right here," Wedge said. "Nobody really knows most of our guys. Now how it plays out, time will tell. But we're doing what we're supposed to be doing right now to find out. To give it every opportunity to play out -- that's what you want to do. You want to give every opportunity to play out with each individual player in each aspect of your team."
And in terms of what to expect next season, Wedge says that his team will simply be better.
"There will be more consistency," Wedge said. "We're not starting out with a fresh new program and they understand what we expect from them and they understand what to expect from us as a ballclub. They will perform better because of all their experiences this year and because they are going through some of the things they are going through."
Reliever Dan Cortes was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday. Cortes, who was placed on the DL on Aug. 23 with a bruised left ankle he suffered on Aug. 21, appeared in two games on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma, throwing a total of two innings and giving up no hits and two walks.
Outfielder Casper Wells took some reps off the tee Thursday and was able to fully extend his bruised elbow on Thursday. The 26-year-old has missed the last three games after he was hit by a pitch during Sunday's 8-5 loss at Oakland. He has six outfield assists this season, which leads Major League rookie outfielders.
With Italian-born Alex Liddi now on the Seattle roster, the Mariners have six countries represented on their roster. Seattle has had players from 17 different countries during the franchise's history.
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.