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July 4, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Fourth of July pregame notes and lineup vs. the White Sox — Justin Smoak optioned to Tacoma

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Update 3:50 p.m. Frank Thomas time:

The Mariners made another roster move pregame. First baseman Justin Smoak was returned from his rehab stint with Tacoma, activated from the disabled list and optioned to Class AAA Tacoma. The move isn’t surprising. Smoak had struggled before being placed on the DL. His batting average had dropped to .208. After getting his batting average up to .250 and his OPS to .752 on May 7, he hit .163  (17-for-104) with three homers and nine RBI and 28 strikeouts and a .528 OPS over the next 32 games he played in (28 starts) And he hasn’t been hitting much in his rehab stint, posting a .204 (10-for-49) with three doubles, a homer and three RBI and a .599 OPS.

“It’s tough, but LoMo is playing well and provided a big lift for us,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Smoaky will continue to get at-bats there and get sharp. Listen, at some point, he’ll be helping this club again. He just needs to work on skills. He’s a major league player. He just has to bide his time there, stay healthy, get his at-bats and swing the bat good. ”

*** Corey Hart is happy to be back with the big league club. He’s happier to be healthy.

“I feel fine,” he said. “Nothing hurts. My legs are coming back. I’m not as fast as I want to be right now, but I can do everything without hurting myself or re-injuring it.”

He won’t be stealing any bases though.

“I think we are done with that for a while,” he said with a chuckle.

Hart had picked up his production with Tacoma a little in the last week.

“Timing has been good,” he said.  “It’s a little bit different game down there, but I’ve gotten a lot of at-bats. Every game it seemed to get a little bit better for me.”

Why call him back now?

“We’ve got Sale and Jose Quintana in the next few days, and he’s swinging the bat good,” McClendon said. “He’s a force in your lineup and it just made sense to bring him back.”

But don’t overweigh the simple fact that Hart is right-handed.

“To have a righty just to have a righty, that don’t mean $%^&,” McClendon said. “You need a righty that can swing the bat. Corey can swing the bat. So it’s nice to have him. Hopefully, he’ll have a very productive series.”

McClendon said he could use Hart at first base or the outfield as well.

*** James Paxton threw a 52 pitch bullpen pregame. He said he’s scheduled to throw a two-inning simulated game on Tuesday at Safeco Field. Paxton was only supposed to throw 45 pitches, but he felt so good he kept going.

“We did some simulated hitters at the end,” Paxton said. “I was feeling really good. So they said do three hitters and everything was great.”

Paxton said he threw all of his pitches, and increased the number of curve balls in this session.

“It was good,” he said. “It was a little loopy, but I feel like throwing it in bullpens it usually is that way. You usually don’t get that sharp one going to get some adrenaline going and get some hitters in the box. I’m not really worried about that. I’m just looking forward to the next step.”

Paxton doesn’t know how the velocity was, admitting he doesn’t judge it that well.

“It was coming out of my hand really easy,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to throw hard. It was just popping out of my hand and making a good sound when it hit the mitt. So it seems like it was pretty good.”

*** McClendon has seen Sale plenty from his days with the Tigers. The approach of his players against the long, hard-throwing lefty is the same as facing David Price or Max Scherzer or Masahiro Tanaka or any of the other good pitchers in the AL.

“You cannot give your at-bats away,” McClendon said. “You’ve got to battle your ass off,  make every pitch count,  make every strike tough, make every out difficult and hopefully in the end, we’ll come out on top.”

The Mariners are 20-11 vs. left-handed starting pitchers and 8-3 on the road. But I’m guessing none of them – maybe Price – are as good as Sale.

From earlier 

Corey Hart is in the line-up and batting clean-up. For people outraged that Kyle Seager was moved down a spot … I don’t share your anger, particularly with Chris Sale on the mound. The fact that the Mariners are starting six lefties against Sale is indicative of the roster. And while Seager has flourished hitting behind Cano, his success isn’t simply based on that. He’s made some adjustments with his swing, hand position and approach that are vastly more significant than his spot in the order.

The Mariners’ hitters don’t have a lot of experience or success vs. Sale 

Speaking of Sale …  here’s his career splits

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 2.10.02 PMAnd here’s splits this season

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The Mariners are supposedly interested in Dayan Viciedo, according to Gordon Edes. This isn’t the first time they were linked to him. Earlier this spring, the Mariners scouted Viciedo in hopes of securing a right-handed outfield bat. At the time, a few people within the organization admitted that their interest in Viciedo had waned, citing his awful defense (negative defensive runs saved and UZR the past three seasons) and lack of approach. His power numbers have dwindled the past two seasons. The numbers aren’t awful. They aren’t terrible. Would it be worth giving up Brandon Maurer for him? Perhaps. He’ll be first year arbitration eligible next season. He makes $2.8 million this season. So he would obviously jump up. But money shouldn’t be an issue. They’ll get a chance to watch him first hand the next three games.

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Here’s the hats the M’s will be wearing tonight as part of the Fourth of July

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Official game notes … 

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