First base is Justin Smoak’s job to lose, according to Lloyd McClendon

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With the off-season additions of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, the Mariners were seemingly stockpiling first base types. But according to manager Lloyd McClendon, first base is Justin Smoak’s to lose. Despite hitting .238, Smoak showed improvement last season, setting a career-high in home runs (20), slugging percentage (.412), and on-base percentage (.334).

Via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune:

“I told him he’s my first baseman,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I told him that this winter. Having said that, he still has to go out and perform. I like what I see (this spring) from him. He’s doing a pretty darn good job.”

The Mariners recently avoided arbitration with Smoak, agreeing to a one-year, $2.7875 million deal with a $3.65 million club option for 2015. He is eligible for arbitration going into 2016 and can become a free agent after the 2016 season concludes. The Mariners are hoping he can continue making progress as he nears free agency, giving them a good reason to sign him to an extension.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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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. 😉