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Smoak will get first call at first base for Mariners

The SportsXchange

The Seattle Mariners have imported a number of players who could see time at first base this season: Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse. Plus, holdover Mike Carp has spent the bulk of his career as a first baseman.

Most of the playing time, however, will go to the man who was the opening day first baseman last year, Justin Smoak.

Manager Eric Wedge said he sees Smoak as the starter at first base heading into spring training.

"I have a clear idea of how I see it playing out, but (the players) will ultimately determine that," Wedge said. "Players decide how much they're going to play by their performance and how they act, how they handle both the good and the bad.

"I've made it very clear I feel strong about Justin Smoak and what his abilities are. I have every anticipation that he's going to be our first baseman this year. He's coming in as our first baseman."

The Mariners sent Smoak into the offseason with the idea that he would add a little weight and a lot of muscle. Smoak worked out in Seattle recently and Wedge was impressed by his added strength.

"He looks great; his body fat is down, and he's added about 10 pounds of muscle," Wedge said. "For that frame (6 feet 4, 220 pounds last year), that's a good thing. That's the one thing we wanted him to do."

Smoak, acquired in the Cliff Lee deal at the trade deadline in 2010, has had an up-and-down first few seasons with Seattle. Last year things got so bad that he was sent down in mid-July when his batting average sat at .189, with 13 homers and 38 RBI. He was recalled three weeks later and closed out with a rush: a .288 average, six homers and 13 RBI in the final quarter of the season.

Wedge said the final seven weeks of the season gave evidence that Smoak is not that far off from being a 25- or 30-homer guy. The power-strapped Mariners certainly need that kind of output from their first baseman.
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