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Today’s sights and sounds video features Danny Hultzen playing some catch, Felix Hernandez throwing a simulated game of sorts and Justin Smoak and Robinson Cano putting in extra time after batting practice.
Hultzen, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum and labral capsule, has been playing catch for a while now. He’s throwing from about 80 feet. It’s going to be a long recovery process for Hultzen, who will not pitch in a game this season.
Hernandez pitched to minor leaguers Gaby Guerrero and Dario Pizzano. Guerrero did have a solid liner to left field off of Hernandez, which he acknowledge with a little finger point.
Smoak and Cano worked on the infamous “net drill” made popular by Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. It’s meant for hitters to work on keeping their hands inside the baseball and using their lower half. Cano placed a screen on the outside part of the plate and worked on driving the ball to right field. It’s something Cano has done a lot in his career. He asked Smoak to join him. Cano has been talking with Smoak the past few days about trying to keep his hands inside the baseball longer.
“If you go forward, you are going to hit the net, so you have to stay back and keep your hands inside and use your lower half,” Cano said.
Cano was obviously very good at the drill. Smoak struggled to adjust to having the net there at first.
“Anybody who does it the first time, it’s going to take a while,” Cano said.
Even with the slow start, Smoak liked the drill and by the end, he was launching balls over the fence with authority.
“It felt good,” he said. “It definitely felt weird at first. It’s my first time ever doing it. He’s been doing it for a while now. But It actually felt good to feel what he and I have been talking about the past few days. You are trying to pull the ball there. But you are trying to pull it the right way. I hit some balls there that I thought were going to be foul, but they actually stayed fair.”
Cano has taken an interest in Smoak. He likes the potential of what Smoak could be.
“He reminds me of myself when I first came up,” Cano said. “I used to go forward too much. I started the net drill and it really helped me a lot. It helps me to keep my hands inside and use my lower half. I know he’s a big kid that’s got some power, a guy that can hit and I told him you gotta go out there and try to have a better season than last year. I asked him well, ‘what’s your average?’ And he said,’ .230,’ I said, ‘well, you can do better than that. You want to be up here, you’re talented and you’re young. You have to be willing to do the work.’ And he has. We’ve been working. Howard’s been working with him and he’s doing pretty good.”
Smoak knows he needs to be listening to what Cano and Johnson are trying to get him to do. He wants the same things. The net drill provides a way for him to get there.
“We talked earlier and he said when he first got called up, he said he was a totally different guy,” Smoak said. “You see the work he’s put in and where he’s at today and it’s pretty darn good.”
Cano is looking forward to putting on a Mariners uniform and playing in his Cactus League game on Thursday.
“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow,” he said. “Its my first time. I’m excited. We all know the season doesn’t start here, but I’m going to go out there and get quality at-bats, and keep doing the same thing. I’m not trying to change anything or not trying to do too much.”