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Smoak gets off to strong spring start


PEORIA, Ariz. -- Looking to carry his strong 2012 finish over into the new season, Justin Smoak got off to a nice start when he homered in his first Cactus League game Saturday with a powerful shot to right-center field against the Padres.

Smoak knows it's just Spring Training and the real tests will come later, but it never hurts to start well and build confidence in the sunshine of Arizona.

Smoak, who didn't play in Sunday's game, went 1-for-3 in Saturday's contest. He struck out in his first at-bat, reached on an error and then ripped a 3-1 fastball from Brad Boxberger onto the berm in right field.

"It's always good to square balls up early on," Smoak said. "I knew after my first couple at-bats I was a little quick and I just needed to let the ball travel a little farther. That's what I went up there my third at-bat trying to do."

The ball traveled much farther once Smoak unloaded.

"That was loud," said manager Eric Wedge. "That was probably the loudest hit of the day and good to see. He's a lot stronger. You look at what he's doing up there from a mechanical standpoint, he's really looking to lock that in. He picked it up at the end of last year and was able to be consistent with it and he's been able to be consistent with it here early on, as well."

Smoak's shot came when he was hitting left-handed, which is the side he's gotten most of his work on early in the spring, given the number of right-handers in camp.

As for his swing?

"It's feeling better," he said. "It's still a work in progress, but this is as close as I've felt to being where I want to be for quite a while. So, it's getting better."

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