Oakland Athletics Option Jake Smolinski, Carson Blair to Triple-A
Oakland Athletics Outfielder Jake Smolinski, Catcher Carson Blair Will Start Season In Triple-A Nashville
There were many who believed that Oakland Athletics outfielder Jake Smolinski was on pace to make the Opening Day roster, but on Sunday, the 27-year-old was optioned to the Triple-A Nashville Sounds squad instead.
Heading into Sunday’s contest, Smolinski was batting .316/.357/.500 this spring, including a home run and eight RBIs. He had struck out only four times, and seemed to be playing extremely well as he battled for one of the highly-coveted outfield spots. However, with Khris Davis, Billy Burns and Josh Reddick locked in, only bench spots remained up for grabs. Chris Coghlan and Mark Canha are likely to claim two of them, leaving only one spot – which now seems like it will almost certainly belong to the A’s $11 million man, Coco Crisp, regardless of who will be able to help the team the most.
Smolinski’s demotion had little to do with his performance and far more to do with the fact that he had options remaining, whereas many of the other names on the outfield depth chart do not. Considering his age, the Athletics are also probably more concerned with him receiving regular at-bats, as opposed to sitting on the bench the majority of the time with the big league club.
Smolinski has played for several organizations, including the Nationals, Marlins, Rangers and Athletics, but his major league debut came in 2014, when he hit .349/.391/.512 with the Rangers in 24 games. After getting off to a rough .133 start with Texas in 2015, Smolinski was picked up by the A’s, and he split time last year between Nashville and Oakland. Although he did improve over his early-season numbers, he still batted just .226/.288/.462 in 41 games with the A’s.
It appears that the outfielder will again split time between the two levels, as his performance definitely garnered enough attention to justify a mid-season call-up. Smolinski should be at the top of the list in the event of injury, given his experience in the majors and his strong showing this spring.
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In an unsurprising development, catcher Carson Blair was also reassigned to minor league camp. Blair was batting .235/.278/.294 in Spring Training prior to Sunday’s game, but with Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley on the roster, he was all but guaranteed not to make the team from the start.
Blair will likely get at least a cup of coffee in 2016, considering the A’s lack of other catching options. If Vogt or Phegley encounter any short-term injuries, Blair will likely take over the backup catching duties. He had 35 plate appearances in 11 games with the A’s last year, batting .129/.229/.226.