Smoak eager to get back to baseball

Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak was back with the Mariners Tuesday in Detroit and in tonight’s lineup, hitting fifth, after missing six games following the death of his father in Goose Creek, S.C.

Smoak asked not to talk about his family situation, but answered questions about baseball and said he’s not worried about regaining his stroke.

The 24-year-old has a seven-game hitting streak going and was 9-for-24 (.375) during that stretch to raise his batting average to .291 with a pair of home runs.

“With time off you’ve always got to shake things off, but it’s part of it and I’m ready to get going here again,” he said. “I’m excited to be back.”

The Mariners didn’t take early batting practice Tuesday due to threats of bad weather that never materialized, but Smoak worked in the batting cage and said he felt fine.

“I think it’s just one of those things. I feel like my last game was yesterday,” he said. “It’s been a whirlwind, but we’ll see what happens tonight. I feel good. I was hitting in the cage today and everything felt about the same, so we’ll see what happens.”

Also back with the team is young reliever Dan Cortes, who was sent down to Tacoma late in Spring Training after initially being regarded as one of the late-inning candidates. Cortes replaces Josh Lueke, who threw 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball for the Rainiers yesterday.

Cortes said he’s been looking to harness his emotions, as well as his upper-90s fastball.

“I’m not throwing quite as hard, I was throwing 95-97, but the main thing is to throw strikes,” he said. “I’m not trying to throw my arm out trying to get to triple-digits. My main focus is just to throw strikes and get hitters out.

“I’d get in my own head and get frustrated and angry. That’s what caused me to get wild and stay off line from home plate. I’ve been pretty chilled mentally and it’s helping me out.”

Here’s tonight’s lineup for the 4:05 p.m. PT game against the Tigers:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Milton Bradley LF
Miguel Olivo C
Justin Smoak 1B
Jack Cust DH
Brendan Ryan SS
Michael Saunders CF
Jack Wilson 2B
Felix Hernandez P

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