ARLINGTON, Texas. – Texas reporters kept dropping by Justin Smoak’s locker Wednesday in the Seattle Mariners clubhouse, and not all of them wanted an interview.
“A lot of folks just want to ask how I’m doing, what’s been going on with me,” Smoak said. “This was my big-league debut here, my first big league team. I still know a lot of folks here.”
If it seems forever since Smoak was acquired from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade, consider this: Texas has been in the World Series each of the past two Octobers.
Had they won the first, Smoak would have a World Series ring.
“Yeah, I was rooting for them in that one, especially,” Smoak said. “Last October, I was rooting for them because I played with so many of them. The first year, I think I was rooting for a ring.”
It’s been a tough start to 2012 for Smoak, who is batting .200 with one home run and two RBI, and that includes a two-hit game Tuesday night.
“I’m feeling better than the numbers look,” Smoak said. “It seems like every night I’m fouling off a pitch I should hit hard.”
Outfielder Mike Carp played in a minor-league intra-squad game Wednesday in Peoria, Ariz., and had four at-bats – hitting a triple and a home run.
“He’s coming along quickly,” manager Eric Wedge said. “We’ll re-evaluate again (today).”
Carp, placed on the disabled list in Japan after spraining a shoulder diving for a fly ball, had set the Mariners home opener Friday as a goal for his return.
It’ll come down to whether the team thinks he needs a rehab assignment.
Five games into the reopened season, Jesus Montero caught his first game and John Jaso got his first playing time as the designated hitter Wednesday.
“Once we get into the season a little bit, we’ll work off the players and off the team in determining how much time guys get,” Wedge said. “I won’t define that too early, and we’re not even a week into it. It’s good to get everyone in a game the first week, but it’s not easy.”
One player who hasn’t appeared in a game yet is reliever Hisashi Iwakuma, who had such a tough camp he lost a spot in the rotation.
Since the season reopened, all Iwakuma has done is throw bullpen sessions. Any improvement?
“I haven’t seen anything different, but it’s hard to say until he faces hitters,” Wedge said. “He’ll get in more games as we get into the season. Starting pitchers won’t always be going five, six innings.”
For now, Iwakuma remains the long reliever.
When the Mariners fly home tonight, they will be in Seattle for the first time in the two months and two days since spring training began. Former Gold Glove center fielder for the Mariners, Mike Cameron, who won two (2001, 2003) of his three Gold Gloves while with Seattle, will throw out the first pitch at Safeco Field on Friday. How rare was that 1-0 game with the Rangers on Tuesday? In 266 games the two teams have played each other in Arlington, it was the fifth 1-0 game they have played, the second at Rangers Ballpark.
Seattle concludes this trip with a 11:05 a.m. (PDT) game that will be televised on Root Sports. Probable starting pitchers: Seattle’s Jason Vargas (1-0, 2.31 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (0-0, 4.50).