July 9, 2013 at 5:31 PM
Ex-Mariners regular Mike Carp settled into new part-time role with Red Sox
Mike Carp isn’t in tonight’s lineup for the Boston Red Sox after getting the start last night against Felix Hernandez and going 1-for-4 with a single off his former Mariners teammate. After an injury-derailed 2012 season with the Mariners, Carp was cut loose in a last-minute trade for cash on the eve of spring training.
He has since managed to land a spot with a first-place Boston club as a jack-of-all-trades bench player, being used in the outfield, at first base, DH and as a pinch-hitter depending on who’s pitching and who needs the rest. The reduced playing time seems to suit him, as Carp is hitting .304 with a .362 on-base percentage and .616 slugging mark in 125 at-bats.
“I try to go out there everyday as if I’m playing,” Carp said. “I’ve been an everyday player my whole career. I know what my role is going to be. I might pinch-hit. It might be a week before I see some at-bats. I try not to throw anything away. I’m just going to go out there and though it’s a grind, I’m going to try to do the best I can.”
He likes the whole first place thing, too.
“It’s fun winning ballgames and being able to contribute,” he said.
Last night, he got a firsthand look at the new left field configuration at Safeco Field.
“It was different,” he said. “I had to go out there with (first base coach) Arnie Beyeler and have him hit some balls off the wall and down the line a little bit. It’s different in the corner than it used to be. There’s a little angle now, so I had to play that. It’s different. There are a lot fewer steps to the wall.”
Carp said it was a it tough seeing some of his former teammates here. He got a pretty positive fan reception during batting practice yesterday and upon taking the field.
But he’s moved on.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was asked pregame today about this little 5-2 streak his team is on against winning ballclubs and he said much of it boils down to the players relaxing a little instead of tensing up and trying too hard. He described how much better Justin Smoak has gotten and how he had to work his way back from that oblique strain that sidelined him nearly a month.
“It’s interesting, because you saw a lot of that with a lot of our guys,” Wedge said. “We got banged up right away, got off to tough starts. People start to feel pressure and it dominoes on them. What I think you’re seeing our guys do now is they’re playing more tension-free than they probably ever have. And to be the very best in this game, you have to play — and particularly, you have to hit — tension-free. You’ve got to have everything going on upstairs with your plan and approach. But you’ve got to be able to find that. And I think Smoak is probably as close to that as he’s ever been.”
Wedge agreed that Smoak being a switch-hitter adds to some of the tension and the struggles he faced coming back from his injury, since he had to work on his swing from both sides of the plate. Smoak currently has an on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) mark of .883 as a left-handed batter compared to .558 batting right-handed.
I asked Wedge whether things might soon reach a point it would be worth contemplating whether to have Smoak swing exclusively from the left side.
“He’s always been better on the right side,” Wedge said. “This year, it’s just been one of those fluke things. He’s focused so hard to get better from the left side — which is where he is most of the time, as we know — so I think that will start to come back around. I think it’s already started to come back around.”
Last year, Smoak was a .703 OPS hitter from the right side compared to just .627 from the left.
Prior to this year, he was .695 from the right side and just .677 batting left-handed. So, there is merit to what Wedge said.
The first of Smoak’s RBI doubles last night came from the right side, batting off southpaw Jon Lester.
“It was good,” Smoak said. “I feel like the last week or so, it (the right side) has been better. So, I’ve just got to keep on going at at-bats tht way and good things are going to happen.”