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Mariner notes: Wedge praises Smoak

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By Ryan Divish
The News Tribune
SEATLE -- Justin Smoak's importance to the Seattle Mariners' offense has never been questioned. The big first baseman was acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade to be the middle of the order presence the team desperately needed.
But because of injuries, inconsistencies and other issues, Smoak hasn't quite reached expectations. What's realistic for Smoak at this point? He might never be a 30-homer guy, but just some consistent production would be a start.
It seems now like Smoak is making strides toward it.
Smoak had a pair of hits on Sunday drawing the praise of manager Eric Wedge.
"We've seen some things from him for a little while now," Wedge said. "It's been a little more consistent which you like to see. A big guy like that can do some damage. You want him to be up there because good things can happen every time he swings the bat."
Smoak is hitting .317 (19-for-60) with a double, four homers and 11 RBI in the past 15 game. He's raised his average from .173 to 224.
More importantly, he's not trying to pull everything. Both of Smoak's hits on Sunday were to the opposite field.
"I think he's becoming more of a complete hitter," Wedge said. "He has better plate coverage and he's using the entire field."
Said Smoak: "I feel alright. It's feeling better and better. Hits always make you feel better. I'm just trying to stay with the same approach."
40 strikeouts
Wedge has been non-plussed about the his players approach at the plate during the four-game series with the Angels. Over the course of those four games, Seattle hitters struck out 40 times and hit just .148 (18-for-122).
It came after a stretch of games where it appeared the Mariners' overall approach at the plate had improved.
"What I don't like and this is what bothers me more than anything is when I see guys moving in the right direction and then sometimes they will back it up to the point where they were when they started," he said. "They will retread over the same real estate. That pisses me off. I don't like that. That's a discipline. That's more concentration. That's a focus. That's the one thing that bothers me."
Guti to Arizona
Franklin Gutierrez sprinted the bases and took fly balls in the outfield before the game and showed enough in the last four days for the Mariners to think his sore heel is finally healthy enough to let him back into game action.
"He had a really good day today," Wedge said before Sunday's game.
While the team heads to Texas, Gutierrez will head to the team's spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona. He will play in some extended spring training games in Arizona for a the week and then will be sent out on a rehab assignment to the Rainiers.
Because Gutierrez missed so much time, Wedge said he will likely spend close to all of the allotted 20 days a player is given on a rehab assignment with the Rainiers.
Story tags » Mariners

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