PEORIA, Ariz. – It’s not that there’s less of Justin Smoak this spring, it’s that what’s there is put together differently.
“I weighed 225 at the end of last season, I weigh anywhere between 220-225 now,” the Seattle Mariners first baseman said Saturday.
Smoak looks leaner, stronger, more athletic.
“I gave up bread, ate almost entirely meat and vegetables – and working out two hours a day, four days a week didn’t hurt,” Smoak said. “My wife loved it because she always ate well and worked out.”
On the last day of the 2011 season, manager Eric Wedge brought Smoak into his office and asked for just such a transformation. He wanted Smoak to commit to the work, and Smoak did.
The motivation was simple: Smoak batted .234 last season, with 15 home runs and 55 RBI in 123 games.
“I’ve been here three days, hitting in the cage,” Smoak said. “I don’t know that the ball is going any farther when I hit it, but I know I’m in much better shape. This is how I was in college.”
That was in South Carolina, were he was Player of the Year in both 2004 and 2005. As a college player, Smoak batted .333 and set school records for home runs (62) and RBI (207).
A switch-hitter obtained from Texas in a 2010 trade for Cliff Lee, Smoak is now 25. This winter, he gave up two great loves for baseball.
“I gave up Mexican food – man, I could crush burritos,” he said. “And pizza. I could crush those, too.”
The change he began this offseason was just a start, Smoak said,
“I’ll lift all year to maintain my strength,” he said. “I feel stronger, my agility is better, I feel quicker. Guys see me and ask if I’m going to steal 30 bases this season.
TRIBUTE TO HALMAN
Outfielder-first baseman Mike Carp stunned teammates a year ago when he came to camp having dropped weight and added muscle, so this year he went further.
“I worked to get stronger this year, that was the goal – my legs, my core muscles. I ran a mile on the treadmill, did a lot of back and abdominal work,” Carp said.
“If I’d been in this condition when I first came up, I might have been a better player. That was holding me back.”
Among Carp’s offseason inspirations: Teammate Greg Halman, who was stabbed to the death in his home in the Netherlands.
Carp won’t forget a player he liked and admired, and he hopes others won’t, either.
He had T-shirts made for every Mariners player and had them hung in their lockers. Each had Halman’s name and number and a quote from Jackie Robinson: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
“One thing I learned from Greg was never to take a day for granted,” Carp said.
Star attraction of the day was Japanese shortstop Muneori Kawasaki, who ran and took batting practice under the watch of about 15 members of the Japanese media. Among the position players in camp working on their own Saturday were Dustin Ackley, Carp, Smoak, Kyle Seager, Alex Liddi and Brendan Ryan. The full roster reports Friday, with the first full-squad workout a day later. Catcher Adam Moore arrived in camp well down on the Mariners’ depth chart – behind Miguel Olivo, left-handed hitting John Jaso and rookie Jesus Montero. “Look at what happened last year,” Moore said. “I got hurt, Chris (Gimenez) was hurt. You knew the team was going to add more depth at the position. I’ve just got to do the best I can and not worry about what I can’t control.”