7/11/2014 6:34 P.M. ET
Hart factors in to second-half plans
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- While Corey Hart has struggled since coming of the 15-day disabled list on July 4 and wasn't in the lineup for Friday's series opener with the A's after twice leaving the bases loaded in Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Twins, manager Lloyd McClendon said the designated hitter remains key to Seattle's plans going forward.
Hart is hitting .200 (5-for-25) with seven strikeouts since returning from a strained hamstring, putting him at .207 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 44 games for the season.
The two-time National League All-Star missed all of last season with the Brewers following a pair of microfracture knee surgeries and McClendon said his latest injury further slowed his progress.
"Corey is getting better," McClendon said. "It's a little frustrating for him right now. He's a little jumpy. Coupled with the fact he missed so much time, then he got hurt again when he was starting to swing good, he's just got to slow down and allow the game to come to him a little bit.
"I told him that his last at-bat [on Thursday]," said McClendon. "Just slow down a little and stop trying to force the issue. Nobody cares more than him. Those are tough at-bats. But I do see some progress and I think if he can stay healthy and get out there on a consistent basis, he's going to make a good run for us down the stretch here in the second half."
Smoak recalled as Mariners place Saunders on DL
SEATTLE -- First baseman Justin Smoak was recalled by the Mariners and inserted into Friday night's lineup against the A's after the club placed outfielder Michael Saunders on the 15-day disabled list.
Saunders strained his left oblique during an at-bat in the eighth inning of Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Twins. An MRI on Friday revealed the strained muscle and the 27-year-old will now be sidelined at least until July 25, which means he'll miss a minimum of 11 games around the All-Star break.
It's the second DL stint of the season for Saunders, who was previously sidelined from June 12-27 with inflammation in his right shoulder. Saunders was hitting .276 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 65 games, including a .313 mark with five homers and 21 RBIs in 31 games since May 16.
Smoak was recalled from Tacoma after batting .284 with four doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs in 19 games. He initially was sent down to the Rainiers on a rehab assignment after being placed on the DL with a strained left quad on June 11, but he remained in Tacoma when the Mariners chose to stay with Logan Morrison at first base.
But Smoak has heated up in the 10 games with Tacoma, hitting .325 with one double and two home runs. He's hit .632 (12-for-19) with two home runs in his past four games.
Smoak, who was back in the lineup at first base for Friday's series opener with the A's, hit .208 with seven home runs in 63 games with Seattle before going on the DL.
McClendon intrigued by Wilhelmsen as starter
SEATTLE -- Though he acknowledged no such move is imminent, Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon reiterated Friday that he's intrigued by the idea of Tom Wilhelmsen as a starting pitcher after the big right-hander made a spot start in Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Twins.
Wilhelmsen allowed one hit and two runs (one earned) in 2 2/3 innings in the first start of his Major League career as the Mariners went with an all-bullpen day. But McClendon said he feels the club should at least ponder the idea of moving the 30-year-old into that role on a permanent basis at some point.
"I think we do," McClendon said. "I mean, I think it would be awfully hard to build him this year, but certainly going into Spring Training that's something we would probably entertain. Why not? He's 94-97 [mph] with real good sink, he's got a cutter, curveball, slider, changeup and is a power guy who has flourished in the long roles. And he's mature enough probably to handle it."
Wilhelmsen ranks eighth in Mariners history with 54 career saves and has excelled in longer relief and setup roles this year with a 2.54 ERA in 34 games. He threw 54 pitches Thursday before turning things over to his fellow bullpen mates.
"I liked what I saw yesterday," McClendon said prior to Friday's series opener with the A's. "He was pretty clean for the most part. He got tired in the third because the pitch count got up, but I thought it was pretty good."
As for whether it might be difficult to persuade Wilhelmsen to try converting to a rotation spot after he's been part of Seattle's bullpen all four of his seasons in the Majors, McClendon just laughed.
"I don't think it's a hard sell from relieving to starting and the potential from a financial standpoint," he said. "I don't think it's a hard sell at all."
• Saturday night is Hisashi Iwakuma bobblehead night, with the first 20,000 fans at Safeco Field to receive the Iwakuma replicas. Iwakuma is scheduled to start the 7:10 p.m. PT contest against A's right-hander Jesse Chavez.
• Kyle Seager is the first Mariner since Raul Ibanez in 2006 to have 14 or more home runs and 60-plus RBIs by the All-Star break. With 14 homers and 61 RBIs through 92 games, Seager is on pace for 25 home runs and 107 RBIs. Seattle hasn't had a 25-plus homer and 100-plus RBI man since Richie Sexson and Ibanez in '06.