Blog Entry

Smoak 'em if you've got him

Posted on: March 24, 2011 9:41 am

PEORIA, Ariz. -- He's just 24 and, were the Mariners not fielding a lineup that includes retreads Jack Cust, Jack Wilson and Milton Bradley, Justin Smoak would be the face of Seattle's rebuilding effort.

Instead, the Mariners aren't rebuilding so much as retooling. So the biggest name acquired from Texas in last summer's Cliff Lee trade remains a face of the future, not the face of the future.

Which probably is just fine. Lessens the expectations, you know.

"I don't feel much pressure," Smoak says. "They brought me in here for a reason. I just have to go out and play my game."

The hope is that the first baseman eventually develops some pop, and the Mariners caught a glimpse of that last summer when he batted .239 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 30 games for Seattle. Before that, Smoak struggled in Texas, hitting just .209 with eight homers and 34 RBI in 70 games.

One thing that could be a plus as the switch-hitter grows into his major-league size is, Smoak is not griping in the least about leaving Texas' hitter-friendly ballpark for Seattle's, uh, less-than-hitter-friendly Safeco Field. In fact, Smoak's mindset on hitting in Seattle is impressive.

"I think it will be better for me," he says. "Batting left-handed in Texas, I wanted to pull everything. And it got me messed up.

"In Safeco, you've got to go gap-to-gap, use the whole field. Hopefully, that will help me. Because when I'm going good, I'm going the other way."

Safeco definitely prevents hitters from getting too pull happy. And that should allow a guys like Smoak to avoid falling into bad habits that sometimes can take several days to work out of. He talks of what a "great opportunity it is here in Seattle. Everybody's excited in the direction we're headed."

"It's a good group of guys here," he adds. "I think this year is going to be a lot better than it was last year. It's got to be better. The clubhouse has been good. Everybody's loose."

Of course, it's a lot easier to be loose at 0-0 than it is en route to 101 losses, as Seattle suffered last season. Part of Smoak's job in his first full season with the Mariners will be to help keep it that way -- and hit to all fields.

Sunblock Day? Killer. Back up in the high 70s with a warm sun.

Likes: Opening day, a week away. ... NCAA basketball tournament, four more wild days starting today. ... Spring training always is a great time of the year, but at this point, it's always nice when it's time to go home.

Dislikes: So long to my Chrysler Sebring convertible rental car here in the desert.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It's time to move on, time to get goin'
"What lies ahead, I have no way of knowin'
"But under my feet, baby, grass is growin'
"It's time to move on, it's time to get goin'"

-- Tom Petty, Time to Move On


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or