Smoak has first locked up, McClendon says

Smoak has first locked up, McClendon says

PEORIA, Ariz. -- If there were any question where Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon stood regarding his team's first basemen, he made it clear Monday that it was one of only a few spots he felt was locked up heading into the regular season, and that Justin Smoak would be the guy.

"I said this winter that Smoak is my first baseman," McClendon said Monday morning. "Will other guys play first? Yeah. But Smoak is my first baseman."

Smoak had said earlier this spring he figured the spot was his to lose, but his manager is now more definitive about the 27-year-old switch-hitter's status.

"I had a couple of talks with him over the winter and stuff like that," Smoak said. "I knew that if I just came out here and do what I'm capable of doing and work hard, then I had no worries."

Of course, that doesn't mean Smoak's work is done. While his defensive prowess at first is unquestioned, his offensive ability has yet to be fully tapped. McClendon says he has seen progress this spring in Smoak's approach, even in how he handles batting practice.

"We're just trying to get him to be a good hitter, not a power hitter," McClendon said. "For me, Smoak is a guy who should hit 40-45 doubles and 20-25 homers, not the other way around."

Smoak said he was trying to take a bit of a different mentality at the plate, especially from the right side, where he has had a tendency to try to pull the ball. Ultimately, he is working to match up an impressive defensive game with his offensive potential.

"I know if I do what I'm capable of doing offensively, that defensively I have nothing to worry about," Smoak said. "That's something I pride myself in, trying to be a good defensive first baseman. Defensively, I feel like I'm in a good place, and I think I can do the same offensively. I know I'm capable of doing it."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.