MLB Seattle Mariners

Justin Smoak Gives Seattle Mariners Encouraging Sign On Opening Day

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract this offseason, and he is expected to anchor the Mariners lineup; but beyond him there were a lot of questions.

One of the biggest questions for the Mariners was who would provide protection for Cano in the lineup. Manager Lloyd McClendon went with Justin Smoak in the opener and he delivered.

Smoak went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored in the opener. Both of Smoak’s hits went for extra bases, as he hit a double in the second inning and a three-run home run in the ninth.

Smoak will be key to the Mariners’ success this season. The Mariners expect a lot out of  Cano, but he can only do so much without protection in the lineup.

Smoak has spent the majority of the last three seasons in the big leagues with the Mariners, but he has struggled to keep his average up. In each of the past three seasons, Smoak has failed to post an average over .240. He has shown power potential, though, as he has hit 15 or more home runs and driven in at least 50 runs in each season. Those power numbers are just scratching the surface for Smoak, as he has the potential to be a 30 home run and 100 RBI player.

Improving the batting average will be key for Smoak. If he can do that, he should be able to provide the necessary protection for Cano to succeed.

The Mariners brought in a pair of players, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, who could also fill that cleanup role, but Smoak has the most potential out of the group. Living up to that potential is the key, and if Smoak can do that, the Mariners could put together a solid season.

While this is just one game and the sample size is very small, the Mariners have to be encouraged by what they saw on Opening Day.

Spencer Impellizzeri is a MLB writer covering the Detroit Tigers for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Spence_I