Results tagged ‘ Justin Smoak ’

Opening lineup is out … and Smoak is hitting cleanup

Manager Eric Wedge posted his first lineup card this morning in the Mariners clubhouse. And the most interesting thing to me is the guy in the No. 4 spot … young Justin Smoak batting cleanup right out of the gate.

It’s clear that Smoak is needed this season to hit in the middle of the lineup, but Wedge has said he’s reluctant to say he’ll throw the 24-year-old in there from the start. He talked specifically about that in this story I wrote previewing today’s opener here on Mariners.com.

Of course, the charity spring game lineup isn’t the same as the regular-season opener, but obviously Wedge wants to see what the big first baseman can do.

He also wants to get a good look at Milton Bradley in the heart of the order. Bradley will DH today and bat third. If Bradley hits well this spring, he’ll earn a spot on this team without question because the Mariners would like to get something out of his $12 million contract and could certainly use his bat as well if he returns to his old form.

Worth noting as well, no Franklin Gutierrez in the lineup today, which puts Michael Saunders in CF.

Game time is 12:05 p.m. PT (1:05 p.m. in Arizona), with Rick Rizzs and Dave Sims calling the action on 710 ESPN Seattle. And while forecasts called for rain and cool temperatures today, the bad weather appeared to blow through last night and as of this morning it’s sunny and blue skies everywhere.

Play ball!

Here’s the full lineup:

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chone Figgins 3B
Milton Bradley DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Adam Kennedy 2B
Miguel Olivo C
Michael Saunders CF
Gabe Gross LF
Jack Wilson SS

Erik Bedard LHP

Thoughts from Peoria on pitchers-catchers report day

Not surprisingly on the day when Mariners pitchers and catchers reported to work, most of the talk Sunday in Peoria focused on, you guessed it, pitching. But there are a few position players in camp early and all seem eager to put last year in the rearview mirror.

SmoakJustin.jpgAs first baseman Justin Smoak said: “There’s probably not a team out there that wants to get started sooner than we do to get last year behind us.”

Fair enough. I think everyone from fans to media to the Peanut Man are more than willing to forget about last season. So let’s focus on the here and now with some initial observations on Sunday’s activities from Mariners camp:

  • The earliest arrivals among the position players are all guys who could play critical roles in this coming season. Smoak, the 24-year-old first baseman, might be the biggest key of all to how this season unfolds given the Mariners’ need for a big bag bat in the middle of the order.
  • He was working with Dustin Ackley and, yes, watching the Justin and Dustin Show could be the highlight of this season if these young guys start coming through. Those two youngsters were hanging out with veteran shortstop Jack Wilson, a gym rat of a ballplayer who would be a good influence on his teammates as well as a nice help for the Mariners if he bounces back to health and plays the way he did in Pittsburgh before his trade to Seattle two years ago.
  • Wilson said he’s feeling great and has been working at his home outside Los Angeles with new infielder Brendan Ryan, who he called after Ryan was acquired by trade from St. Louis and was pleasantly surprised when he saw they shared the same area code.

    Turns out Ryan lives about 25 miles away, so the two have been working together on double-play situations in Wilson’s backyard diamond, taking ground balls from Wilson’s brother and another friend.

    Ironically, Ryan might eventually wind up competing with Wilson for the shortstop duties once Ackley arrives at second base, but that hasn’t stopped their budding friendship.

  • New manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis have an unmistakable bond after 10 years together in the Indians’ organization. When Willis walked by after taking his physical, Wedge asked how he’d done. Willis yelled over his shoulder that he felt so good he was thinking of moving his locker out into the player’s clubhouse, which evoked a loud snort from Wedge.
  • “He’s good for one of those every day,” said Wedge.
  • Willis, 50, spent nine seasons in the Major Leagues as a reliever and was part of the World Series champion Twins bullpen in ’91.

  • Closer David Aardsma was in a good mood Sunday as he talked with teammates and reporters in the clubhouse, but it’s hard to believe a guy still on crutches as camp starts will be ready to contribute any time soon. Aardsma acknowledged that he might not be ready for the first month or so of the regular season, but that it’s more important he be fully healthy for the bulk of the year and the rest of his career.
  • No argument there, though it’ll be interesting to see who steps up in that role. Brandon League had six saves last season while Aardsma was out, giving him eight in his seven-year Major League career.

    Chris Ray, a non-roster invitee, has 61 career saves … but only two since undergoing Tommy John surgery while with the Orioles in ’07.

    The other candidate mentioned by Willis is former Red Sox setup man Manny Delcarmen, who saved three games in six seasons in Boston.

  • Fox Sport’s Ken Rosenthal reported Sunday morning that the Mariners are interested in right-hander Chad Durbin, a 33-year-old veteran who would add another option to the bullpen mix. But Durbin hasn’t been a closer either with four saves in 11 seasons and the Mariners provided no inkling that there was anything to the Durbin rumors Sunday evening.
  • Clearly, though, Jack Zduriencik’s plan is to bring in as many options as possible on no-risk Minor League deals and see who sticks, which will make for an interesting camp. I still think hard-throwing Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke could develop into the best late-inning options, but Willis wants to  lower expectations on those youngsters as well as rookie starter Michael Pineda at this point, which is wise.

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