Justin Smoak gives up burritos, hoping for strong 2012

25 Comments

While not quite a Best Shape of His Life tale, this weekend report from Larry Larue of the Tacoma News Tribune does profess Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak as having an improved physique:

“I gave up Mexican food – man, I could crush burritos,” Smoak told Larue. “And pizza. I could crush those, too. I gave up bread, ate almost entirely meat and vegetables – and working out two hours a day, four days a week didn’t hurt. My wife loved it, because she always ate well and worked out. I’ve been (in camp) three days, hitting in the cage. I don’t know that the ball is going any further when I hit it, but I know I’m in much better shape. This is how I was in college.”

Smoak, 25, registered a .234/.323/.396 batting line, 15 home runs and 55 RBI in 489 plate appearances last season. The Mariners are hoping that the former first-round pick of the Rangers can take a big step forward in 2012 and help cure some of Seattle’s chronic offensive ills.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

Getty Images
Leave a comment

All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉