5/26/2013 3:28 A.M. ET
Triunfel's new-found patience is paying off
By Gregg Bell / Special to MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Mariners infielder Carlos Triunfel said before his first start of the season on Saturday that he's been working diligently since last summer to be far more patient at the plate.
It's paid off. The only time he'd been at .300 or above in any of his previous six Minor League seasons before this spring was the .309 he hit in 43 games as a 17-year-old with Class A Wisconsin in the Midwest League.
That was mere months after Mariners scouts Bob Engle and Patrick Guerrero signed Triunfel as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in the fall of 2006.
"That was always my problem. I've been working on that this year -- to be a lot more patient," Triunfel said through a team interpreter. "I feel good."
Smoak in question with oblique injury
SEATTLE -- First baseman Justin Smoak left in the eighth inning of the Mariners' 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Saturday night with what manager Eric Wedge called a strained oblique.
The Mariners' No. 5 hitter will be evaluated again before Sunday's series finale.
The injury apparently occurred during a check swing in the first inning against Rangers left-hander Derek Holland. He struck out looking, lined out in the third inning and then struck out swinging against Holland in the sixth. Endy Chavez pinch-hit for Smoak in the eighth.
"He didn't think that much of it, and then it didn't go away," Wedge said of Smoak's pain.
Smoak had reached base safely in 16 of 17 games with a .400 on-base percentage before his 0-for-3 Saturday. He has 17 hits in 24 games with a .418 on-base percentage since April 22.
Mike Morse moved from right field to first base to replace Smoak in the ninth inning.
Kendrys Morales has made nine starts at first base this season, second on the club to Smoak's 40.
Reluctant Wedge calls more replay 'inevitable'
SEATTLE -- The day after Mariners catcher Jesus Sucre's first Major League at-bat turned into a double play that really wasn't, manager Eric Wedge conceded expanded use of instant replay is probably "inevitable."
Wedge maintains he is a fan of "the human element" of umpiring being integral to the game,but he wasn't a fan of what happened Friday night.
The back end of Sucre's double-play grounder was Elvis Andrus' throw to Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland. The problem was Moreland wasn't the player who caught the ball. That was pitcher Justin Grimm, who was well off the bag -- but his glove and Moreland's glove nearly touched when the pitcher cut the throw off, making it appear to most that Moreland made the catch.
Replays showed clearly what really happened, but only Grimm and Moreland appeared to be in the know in real time.
First-base umpire Jeff Nelson called Sucre out, completing a bizarre double play that was scored 3-6-3 and later changed to 3-6-1.
Wedge came out to argue -- that Moreland's foot was off the bag when he caught the ball. The manager had no idea until after the game that Grimm had caught the ball.
"You can't hide anything anymore," Wedge said.
Though he feels expanded instant replay for safe-out calls is coming, the question for Wedge is where do you draw the line?
Asked if he were Major League Baseball's Commissioner where exactly he would draw that line of when instant replay can be used, Wedge laughed and said, "I'm glad I'm not the Commissioner."
More positive Ryan: '.200 feels like .550'
SEATTLE -- The youth movement that edged into the middle of the Mariners' infield on Friday shifted into full gear against the Texas Rangers on Saturday night, when Carlos Triunfel made his first start of 2013.
But the 23-year-old didn't make his sixth Major League start since debuting last September by playing his natural position of shortstop. He was batting eighth and playing second base, for Dustin Ackley, who's mired in an 0-for-13 skid.
Brendan Ryan wasn't about to yield at shortstop. Not now, anyway.
The Mariners entered the second game of the weekend series against first-place Texas on a seven-game losing streak. That wasn't because of Ryan. Seattle's three-year starter at shortstop entered Saturday 13-for-32 (.406) in his last nine games. That had raised his average 80 points in 12 days, from his season low of .122 to .202.
No, that's not exactly the stuff of Tigers reining Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Yet, it was good enough for Ryan to laugh about being above .200 for the first time since April 13. He finished 2012 at .194.
"It's been so bad, .200 feels like .550 right now," he joked before Saturday's batting practice. "I almost don't even want to know what it [batting average] is. I want to stay hungry."
Ryan credits a concerted mentoring combination for heating up his bat: hitting coach Dave Hansen; first-base coach Mike Brumley; plus Ryan's brother, Paul. Paul is 15 years older than the 31-year-old Brendan and has been tutoring him since T-ball in their native Southern California.
Brendan and Paul talk at least three or four times each week. Big brother's latest tip was to watch pitches longer through the strike zone.
"He just wanted me to see the pitches deeper. My point of contact had been so far in front of me, I was just popping pitches up or rolling them over," Brendan said. "It's about trusting your hands, and trusting your eyes."
Ryan's contract expires after this season. He loves Seattle so much he recently bought a condominium downtown near Pike Place Market. That's where he, his wife, Sharyn, and their golden retriever/poodle Bear Grylls (yes, after the TV adventurer) live.
Saturday was the 718th game he has played since he debuted with St. Louis in 2007. That's enough experience to know why the Mariners promoted Triunfel from Triple-A Tacoma.
The native of the Dominican Republic, considered a top Mariners prospect a few years ago, hit .300 in 44 games with the Rainiers. That was before Triunfel flew from SeaTac Airport to Reno and back to SeaTac on Friday, arriving a half-hour after this series with the Rangers began.
He flied out while pinch-hitting in the ninth inning in his 2013 debut.
"I can only control so much," Ryan said. "I know he is not here to sit. He's going to play. Sometimes there will be days I'm not in there. I understand that."
Ryan also understands he and Triunfel will continue to play together if Ryan keeps hitting like this.
"It's been a good 10 days now for him," manager Eric Wedge said of Ryan. "He just needs to stick with what he's been doing."
• Triunfel's start Saturday made for the 46th lineup configuration Wedge has used in the Mariners' first 49 games.
• The Mariners will wear desert-camouflage caps with authentic digital patterns licensed from the United States Marine Corps on Monday for Memorial Day's 1:10 p.m. PT game against the San Diego Padres.
• Tom Wilhelmsen entered Saturday without a save chance in more than a week. He was 11-for-12 in save chances and had kept right-handed batters hitless in 31 at-bats with four walks.
Gregg Bell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.