Justin Smoak Seems Up to the Pressure in 2013 After A Blazing First Week for Seattle Mariners

By Gareth McBride
Steve Bisig USA Today Sports

The Seattle Mariners definitely like what they’re seeing out of their team so far in spring training especially that of Justin Smoak.  Coming into the season Smoak was told that he would be the first baseman of the team going into camp, however with numerous potential replacements now available to manager Eric Wedge, it was time for Smoak to start living up to his potential and be consistent.

The past couple of years Smoak has teased fans with great Septembers only to fall back to a batting average around .220 for most of the season the following year.  This is not all his fault is there certainly have been injuries along the way that have limited his ability to stay on the field, but when he’s healthy he’s been a far cry from what the team has expected.

Smoak is a switch hitter and reportedly worked extensively on hitting from the left side of the plate in the off-season as well as numerous refinements to his swing and approach at the plate.  He is currently six for nine in the cactus league season but one of those outs took a very impressive diving catch from an outfielder to save a hit.  Smoak has hit two very long home runs, one of which was a game-winner from the left side.  On top of this he has a couple of doubles and is hit the ball with authority to all fields from both sides of the plate.

As a longtime Mariners fan, I know that it’s much easier to look impressive in spring training especially with the air and weather in Arizona being so conducive to hitting a baseball.  However with fans, hope does spring eternal, and many are cautiously optimistic that this new approach, combined with added protection in the lineup in the forms of Michael Morse and Kendry Morales will allow the pressure to come off Smoak and let him relax more the plate, as it was clear many times throughout his tenure with the Mariners that he was pressing at the plate especially with runners on base.

Cynics on the other hand would point out that the first week or two of spring training often allows a hitter to shine as pitchers are not in top form noted a pitch to batters the same way they would in an actual game.  That being said, Smoak’s new look and approach has definitely caught people’s attention especially that of his teammates and for the run starved Mariners fans.  Despite a shaky start in their charity opener, the Mariners have been racking up runs in winning games with the combination of steady pitching, solid defense, and timely offense and hitting especially late in the games.

This can be carried over throughout the spring and into the regular season than the fans in the Northwest will definitely have something to be excited about and the team may not feel the pressure to bring up some of their heralded rookies ahead of schedule.  Time will tell of course but for now the Mariners are starting to show improvement and the potential of several of their highly touted young players and prospects which is fans thinking that perhaps they’re not as far away from think as many people feared going into the off-season.

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