Justin Smoak says staying healthy will be key in 2012

Apr 6, 2012, 10:52 AM | Updated: 11:19 am

By Brady Henderson

Justin Smoak thinks the key to a productive season in 2012 is simple — staying healthy.

That’s something the Mariners first baseman couldn’t do last season as he dealt with two thumb injuries, a groin strain and a broken nose that was the result of a ground ball that took a bad bounce and hit him in the face.

“I feel like if I stay healthy there’s good things to happen, not just for me but for the Mariners,” Smoak told “The Kevin Calabro Show” on Thursday.

Justin Smoak is 1-for-9 with a solo home run in two games this season. (AP)

“I feel like it would have been a different year last year if I could have stayed healthy. There was some bad luck here and there. But it’s one of those things, to produce you’ve got to be on the field and I feel like if I stay healthy there’s nothing but good things that should happen for us.”

How about, say, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs?

“Yeah, no doubt,” he responded when co-host Jim Moore asked if those totals were realistic. “Like I said, if I stay healthy I feel like that’s something that could easily happen.”

Smoak has one of each after hitting a solo home run in the Mariners’ second game of the season, a 4-1 loss to the Athletics. That was his only hit in nine at bats during the two-game series in Japan.

“We’ve only played two games but I felt like the first game I had some good at bats and hit some balls hard,” Smoak said. “The second game I felt like I hit three balls hard and one happened to go out. I felt good at the plate.”

Smoak hit cleanup in both of those games, behind Ichiro and ahead of Jesus Montero. Last season he hit .234 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs while primarily batting third and fifth in a lineup that ranked last in all of baseball in runs and average.

“It’s a lot different than it was last year, I can tell you that,” he said of hitting cleanup. “You’ve got some protection there in the middle of the lineup and you’ve got some guys that can drive the ball and hit the ball out of the ballpark.”

Like other Mariners, Smoak made changes over the offseason to his diet and conditioning routine. He hopes that translates into more lower-body strength.

“I feel like when I started struggling my legs were gone. You’ve got to be strong in the lower half to be able to last a full year,” he said. “That’s how you hit — you hit with your legs. So when they go, everything hits the fan.

“So it’s one of those things where I feel like my legs are under me and it’s something I’ve got to keep up throughout the year, but I feel like I’ve taken a step in the right direction.”

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