The Everett Aqua Sox were on hand today, en masse, to watch the Mariners take batting practice. The picture above shows a few of their players taking it all in.
Manager Eric Wedge closed the clubhouse before BP today to hold a team meeting, which seemed to be about firing them up for the final 30 games of the season.
“Just reinforce how important the length of the season is and how important every game is and what we’re playing for,” he said. “Every game means something, every game counts for something, every game is a part of who you are and what you’re eventually going to be.
“When I’m talking about respecting the game, I’m talking about respecting the length of the season. Even though we’re not in it, every game still does mean something. It’s about respecting the Seattle Mariners, respecting major-league baseball, and respecting the teams we’re playing that are in it.
“For us to go through that experience we’re going to go through this month, playing so many teams that are in it, that’s the first step. Because sooner than later, when we’re playing for something in September, having gone through something like this, albeit secondary, it will help us.”
Wedge said he felt it was important to have this talk because of the number of young players on the team. He said “it’s a given” that young players will go through some mental and physical fatigue at this point of the season. Most of them are used to having their minor-league seasons end at the beginning of September, and now they have to push past that.
“It will be a lesson in discipline to take care of themselves before and after each game. It will be a lesson for them in regard to really working to stay disciplined mentally to go out and be the best you can be.”
Wedge himself is juggling the desire to be competitive with the need to evaluate the young players.
“It can get a little bit gray from time to time,” he said. “I think it’s important for all of our fans and everybody to know, our job each and every day, first and foremost, is to come out and win this game today. So everything is second to that. But because of where we are as an organization, and what we’re trying to build here, to continue to look at our young players, to get some of your veteran players we’re counting on to get going and heading in the right direction, and quite frankly, evaluation as we move forward, that’s important.”
One of those young players, Justin Smoak, begins a rehab assigment tonight with Tacoma. He will play six innings in the field, then DH tomorrow, and play again on Wednesday. The Mariners will re-evaluate at that point.
Wedge was asked if he’s been able to give Smoak a fair evaluation this season.
“To an extent,” he said. “To the extent I believe in him. I think it’s obvious, he’s still working to be the big-league hitter he’s going to become. I’m disappointed we’ve missed as much time as we have with him, because I know he would have been further along. As much for himself as us. But that’s why I’m anxious to get him back here and let him play for a month.”