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.

Dallas Keuchel could make season debut on Friday vs. Nationals

Dallas Keuchel
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Braves manager Brian Snitker is hoping recently-signed starter Dallas Keuchel will make his season debut on Friday when the Braves open a 10-game road trip with a three-game set against the Nationals, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. For now, the Braves have not officially named a starter for Friday.

After spending seven months as a free agent, Keuchel finally inked a one-year, $13 million contract with the Braves on June 6. He tossed seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts in his first start with Single-A Rome, then gave up three runs on 11 hits across seven innings for Double-A Mississippi on Saturday.

Last year, his final season with the Astros, Keuchel went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA and a 153/58 K/BB ratio in 204 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old supposedly worried prospective teams due to his declining strikeout rate.

Keuchel is hoping to continue the Braves’ momentum, as the club has won 9 of its last 10 games and is 12-3 overall in June thus far, building up a 2.5-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East.