With their bullpen taxed from heavy usage over the past few days and outfielder Mallex Smith showing no signs of contributing or even cracking the starting lineup given his struggles at the plate, the Mariners optioned the personable outfielder to the alternate training site in Tacoma before the game Tuesday in Los Angeles and recalled reliever Art Warren from the practice squad to provide bullpen depth.
Smith, who joined summer camp two weeks late after failing to meet the initial COVID-19 intake testing requirements, lost his starting center-field job to Kyle Lewis and playing time in the corner outfield spots to infielders Tim Lopes, Dylan Moore and Dee Gordon.
With Smith optioned, Lewis is the only true outfielder on the active roster. But with the Mariners returning home Wednesday for a quick five-game homestand, it would seem likely that they will option a reliever back to Tacoma and call up either Jake Fraley or Braden Bishop from Tacoma. Both are playing well in the intrasquad games and give the Mariners a legitimate option in center field when Lewis needs a day off or to play next to Lewis in a corner spot.
When Smith has played in 2020, he hasn’t played well, struggling at the plate while still being prone to miscues in the outfield and on the bases. In 14 games this season with 47 plate appearances, Smith has a .133/.170/.178 slash line with two doubles, three RBI, two stolen bass, 13 strikeouts and two walks.
This follows a somewhat disappointing 2019 season when he posted a .227/.300/.335 slash line with nine doubles, six triples, 47 RBI, a MLB-leading 46 stolen bases, nine walks, 42 strikeouts and five errors in the outfield. Smith missed much of spring training after injuring his arm in an offseason workout. He started off the season slow at the plate while making mistakes on routine outfield plays, earning a demotion to Tacoma in May.
Warren has spent the 2020 season in Tacoma, pitching in intrasquad games. He was a September call-up last season, appearing in six games and throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
The Mariners also made another roster move shortly after their game started in Los Angeles. Catcher Tom Murphy, who had been on the 10-day injured list since the season started with a metatarsal fracture in his left foot, was transferred to the 45-day injured list. This move opens up a 40-man roster spot for the Mariners.
What will they do with it?
Well, with an open spot in the 60-player pool with the release of Bryan Shaw, the Mariners could add someone from outside the organization to the pool and the 40-man roster. General manager Jerry Dipoto always is open to trades. Or they could bring-up a non-roster player from the alternate site such as pitcher Seth Frankoff, who could provide some long relief depth.
Murphy suffered his injury in summer camp, fouling a ball off his foot while hitting and then taking a foul tip off the same spot a day later. The foot has been slow to recover, bothering Murphy when he would squat behind the plate. He was expected to be the Mariners’ every-day catcher this season. A year ago, he posted a .273/.324/.535 slash line with 18 homers and 40 RBI in 75 games.