Mallex Smith’s time in the minors didn’t last long. Less than two weeks after being optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, Smith has been recalled by the Mariners. In his place, infield prospect Shed Long was optioned to Tacoma.
It was a brief but perhaps much-needed respite for Smith, who got out to an awful .165/.255/.247 start to the season as Seattle’s regular center fielder. The slow start likely hasn’t done much to sway the organization’s hope that Smith can be a long-term option in center field, and it’s possible that his 10-game run in Tacoma provided just the reset he needed. In 48 Triple-A plate appearances, Smith hit .333/.375/.467 with a homer, three doubles and a perfect seven steals in seven tries. Most encouraging of all, he struck out just four times after punching out at an alarming 30 percent rate through his first 110 MLB plate appearances.
The 23-year-old Long, meanwhile, will go back to Tacoma and continue to receive the type of regular reps that weren’t available to him on the big league roster. Recalled as an injury replacement last week, Long appeared in just three games with the Mariners and went hitless in 11 plate appearances. He’s far too important to their long-term outlook to be languishing in a seldom-used bench role, so the decision to send him back to Tacoma, where he hit .276/.350/.504 in 32 games prior to his promotion, makes perfect sense. He’ll quite likely be back later this season and is will at some point have the opportunity to win an everyday role with the Mariners — likely at second base.