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May 29, 2013 at 5:43 PM

Smoak improving, Liddi talks about new hitting approach

Justin Smoak is out of the lineup for the fourth straight game with an oblique injury, but he believes he’s close to being ready to play. In fact, Smoak said he believes he could pinch-hit from the right side tonight if necessary, and should be ready to go tomorrow or the next day.

He’s already hit some balls in the cage off a tee and short-toss, and plans to take BP — again, just right-handed. He said it bothers him more from the left side (even though he hurt himself on a checked-swing while hitting right-handed), “but left-handed feels a lot better today than yesterday,” he said.

Fielding is not a problem, he said. He’ll take some ground balls today and probably play catch. “Everything there feels fine,” he said.

Smoak realizes he’s lucky that the injury isn’t more serious, knowing first-hand that obliques can be persistent. He credits his decision to let the trainers know right away about the injury.

“I’ve had it before on the left side,” he said. “Thank God I was smarter than I normally am. I’m normally going to play through it, but when I felt what I felt, I knew what I had done before and didn’t want to feel that again. I tried to get out of there and take care of it.”

He said he had an oblique injury in Class AA in his first full year as a pro (2009) and missed nearly a month.

“Not good,” he said. “Didn’t want to do that again. I’ll jst try to get it where I can go either tomorrow or the next day.”

With both Smoak and Michael Morse (strained quad) out of action today — Morse isn’t even in San Diego, staying back for medical treatment — Alex Liddi is on hand to provide more options for manager Eric Wedge.

“They haven’t told me anything yet,” Liddi said. “But that’s pretty much been my role for the last two years – third, first and left.”

Liddi added, “I’ve been swinging good lately. I started really good and then I had a rough two weeks and I started swinging good again. I feel pretty good.”

Liddi said he’s worked this season on getting his legs into his swing more.

“I’m just more straight and try to go toward the pitcher instead of going back and side to side,” he said. “It makes me stay through the ball better and drive it the other way, which is my strength.  I’m working on it. Of course, it takes a while. I went through a little slump and then I found it again.

He credited new Tacoma hitting coach Howard Johnson with helping him with the new appoach.

“It’s something that I kind of knew I had to do,” he said. “But I didn’t know they way to do it. HoJo introduced me to it. It’s been big the work HoJo did with me. I really appreciate the work he did for me.”

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