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March 10, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Monday morning notes, links and line-ups … Smoak locked in as the starting first baseman

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 8.42.46 AM

Here’s the roster for this afternoon’s game.

In speaking about the level of competition in the camp and that everyone is fighting for a roster spot and a position, manager Lloyd McClendon asked about which positions were locked in that he didn’t have to worry about.

“The No. 3 hitter every day is Cano, the No. 1 starter is Felix, my third baseman is Seager, my catcher is Zunino and my first baseman is Smoak, other than that we’ll see what happens,” he said.

The part about Justin Smoak is somewhat surprising in the sense that even Smoak admitted it was his  “job to lose” early in spring. Well, he hasn’t lost it. But McClendon had said at the winter meetings that Smoak was his first baseman and hasn’t wavered.

“I said this winter that Smoak is my first baseman,” he said. “Will other guys play first? Yeah, but my Smoak is my first baseman.”

Smoak was happy with vote of confidence.

“I had a couple of talks with over the winter and stuff like that,” Smoak said. “I knew that if I just came out here and do what I’m capable of doing and work hard, then I had no worries.”

Smoak is solid defensively at first. While some advanced metrics have him about middle of the road, McClendon likes his hands around the base and ability to dig balls in the dirt. Talking with Brad Miller and Nick Franklin they both said Smoak saved them on numerous occasions last season.

But it’s the hitting that will define Smoak, and he knows it. You can’t be a light hitting first baseman. McClendon isn’t asking him to be Prince Fielder type, but he’d settle for Mark Grace (one of my favorite players in the 90s).

“We are just trying to get him to be a good hitter, not a power hitter,” McClendon said. “For me, Smoak is a guy that should hit 40-45 doubles and 20-25 home runs, not the other way around and you can still be productive.”

Taijuan Walker played long toss over 120 feet. This is some progress.

“No pain, he felt great,” McClendon said. “He’s got a smile on his face. I feel good about where he’s at.”

Robinson Cano is back in the line-up provided he’s cleared by the trainers. Cano is coming back from a root canal. The reason it’s taken longer than expected was there was some infection in the tooth area.

McClendon mentioned postgame yesterday that Fernando Rodney had experienced a little big of setback during the spring. That setback was a nasty little virus that is going around the area.

“He wasn’t feeling his best,” McClendon said.

Cole Gillespie is battling it along with the best looking Mariners writer at the Seattle Times.

Looking for a candidate for a long reliever? Zach Miner might be the best bet.

The veteran right-hander has pitched well this spring and McClendon has a familiarity with him.

“He’s an experienced reliever, a swing man,” McClendon said. “I love sinkerballers and he’s got a plus pitch with his sinker and his change-up.”

LINKAGE

Here’s my notebook starting with Felix Hernandez’s start yesterday. He wasn’t happy, but he wasn’t upset. Such is the life of spring training, particularly when you know you have  spot locked up. Had this been late in spring training – like a week before opening day – Hernandez wouldn’t have started the game because it’s a division opponent. Instead, he would have pitched in a B game to get his pitch count up.

Columnist Jerry Brewer writes an appreciation for Kyle Seager. From his column ….

Seager is the steady one, the young guy we don’t have to worry about on a team of fallen young stars. But somehow that often makes him fade to the background instead of standing out because negativity stirs so much of our Mariners’ conversation. The struggles of Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley get more attention.

Seager would laugh at the underestimation, but he’s too busy getting better.

“For me, I know that there are a lot of things I can clean up, offensively and defensively, that’ll help me be more consistent and help me to do better,” Seager said. “I can continue to get better, and hopefully I figure some things out, and this year, I’ll be able to keep moving forward.”

Columnnist Norman Chad writes about Robinson Cano … sort of.

Tim Kurkjian was on ESPN 710 and said Corey Hart is crucial for the Mariners’ success.

SI’s Richard Deitsch talks to a group of writers about what it’s like to be an MLB writer.

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