PEORIA, Ariz. - Once Justin Smoak stopped trying to hit home runs, he hit a couple of doubles Friday.
“I feel comfortable, and I keep working on what I’ve been working on,” Smoak said. “I finally got my first double to left-center field, so that was a good sign. The other one was to dead center field.”
Both came in a 6-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs, part of a long day of baseball for the Seattle Mariners, who played a split-squad, day-night doubleheader. In the nightcap, Seattle salvaged a split by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 6-0.
Smoak’s two-hit game inched his spring average to .214, hardly where he’d like it, but better than it was a week ago.
“I’m letting the ball get to me a little more. I’m trying to be a hitter,” Smoak said. “Before, I was just a power hitter. When you try to do too much, bad things happen.”
A switch-hitter, Smoak said he’ll occasionally struggle from one side but not the other, and that each day in batting practice he splits his swings between the right and left side.
As the spring comes to an end, he’s also getting more regular playing time.
“It’s been a lot easier. It was tough early on – play a day, off a day, play a day, off a day,” Smoak said. “Now I’m getting more consistent at-bats and things are starting to click a little bit.
“Right now, left-handed is feeling a lot better. It was good (Thursday) to finally get some right-handed at-bats. I went a week, week and a half or so without even hitting right-handed.”
It had been so long since Smoak had faced a lefty that he followed teammate Luke French down to a minor league game last week when French was going to pitch.
“I got four at-bats against him. That was good,” Smoak said.
How did he do?
“I got him once,” Smoak said.
FLORES BACK TO TRIBE
The Mariners made Jose Flores, 21, a Rule 5 draft pick in December, hoping the right-hander who had never pitched above Class A would some how catch fire in spring training.
He didn’t – and Friday he was sent back to the Cleveland Indians.
Flores appeared in four exhibition games, pitching 32/3 innings, allowing five runs. In that span he allowed four hits and five walks.
Seattle gets back half of the $50,000 sent to the Indians for Flores, and gains an opening on its own 40-man roster, which is at 38.
PARADE OF PITCHERS
The Mariners have penciled out their starting pitching for the remainder of their time in Arizona.
Michael Pineda will face Milwaukee today, Luke French vs. Texas on Sunday, Jason Vargas vs. Colorado on Monday and Doug Fister vs. Colorado on Tuesday.
Where’s Felix Hernandez?
Seattle’s opening day starter will pitch a minor league game Sunday.
Seattle plays at Milwaukee at 1:05 p.m. PDT on 710 AM. Probable starting pitchers: Seattle’s Michael Pineda vs. Yorvani Gallardo.