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Players have McClendon's full attention early

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- A common sight early in Mariners camp is new manager Lloyd McClendon pulling hitters aside to offer advice during or after batting practice. After working as the Tigers' hitting coach the past seven seasons, McClendon is not shy about providing insight, and he is finding willing listeners in his new players.

First baseman Justin Smoak was the subject of McClendon's attention Wednesday and said it was eye-opening.

"He grabbed during BP for a couple things, and everything he said made sense," Smoak said. "It was pretty good. You have to respect the fact that he's been with some really good hitters. It's pretty interesting. It's awesome. When somebody wants to help, it's good to hear what he has to say."

Smoak said the skipper suggested some adjustments in his stance that reinforced an approach he was already working on with hitting coach Howard Johnson.

"I was a little wide," Smoak said of his stance, "and he asked me why. He said when he first saw me a couple years ago, I was more narrow, and he liked that better with bigger guys. And it felt good. That's where I was when I first got called up. It's interesting to hear him say that. He remembered, so it was pretty cool. He was on top of it."

McClendon said Smoak, like most hitters, needed to better understand his swing path and get his bat in the strongest position as it comes through the strike zone.

"It's not about muscling up or swinging harder; it's about getting the bat in the proper slot to get it through the zone," McClendon said. "And if you do that, positive things will happen. I think he liked what he felt, and it's something to build on."

McClendon uses Robinson Cano as an illustration of a smart hitter in batting practice who strokes line drive after line drive, not worrying about clearing the fences or impressing anyone.

"One of our challenges is to get our guys to understand how you take batting practice," McClendon said. "For me, hitting home runs in BP means nothing. I want to see the path; I want to see you staying inside the ball. A lot of times, a good swing doesn't mean it even leaves the cage, but the path was there. And that's what I'm trying to get the guys to understand."

And that is exactly what the team's first-year skipper is doing in his one-on-one conversations around the cage.

"I speak individually, because each hitter is an individual," McClendon said. "The way you address it is to simply tell them. If you don't like what you see, tell them. And HoJo and I talk about it, and he's working with guys on certain things. But it's part of the process. We have to change. It hasn't been working. It's about wins, not developing. You have to change, you have to make adjustments."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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