Justin Smoak gives up burritos, hoping for strong 2012

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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.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.