By Shannon Drayer
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Corey Hart makes his return to the the field Tuesday night after missing a year following knee surgery.
Hart has been slow to come around this spring but it hasn't been because of his knees, which I have been told a number of times have held up very well. Back and forearm issues kept him out of a significant number of games this spring and late in spring training he still hadn't quite found his swing.
Hart told us early on that he was accustomed to getting around 100 at-bats each spring. This year he got 38 in the A games and in my estimation picked up another 40-50 in a handful of minor-league games, where he led off each inning. In the final few days he hit in three minor-league games and then the spring finale against Colorado. It was the first time he hit in games three or more days in a row since the first week of Cactus League games.
To help Hart get comfortable at the plate and with his swing, manager Lloyd McClendon has said that he will take it slow with him early. We most likely will see him only against lefties to start. With C.J. Wilson on the mound for Anaheim, Hart is in there and we get a look at McClendon's first lineup against a lefty.
Abraham Almonte, 8
Brad Miller, 6
Robinson Cano, 4
Justin Smoak, 3
Corey Hart, DH
Kyle Seager, 5
Stefen Romero, 9
Dustin Ackley, 7
John Buck, 2
Lineup notes: Stefen Romero makes his big-league debut. John Buck makes his Mariners debut. Interesting to see that McClendon has Buck catching Ramirez. One reason Buck is in is because McClendon wants to get everyone into games early. I have to wonder if he likes the way Buck handles Ramirez, however. Two starts ago, McClendon was not happy with Ramirez's 0-2 pitches. He has said there has been improvement but I was wondering how fixable that problem was if it happened in games. McClendon said that in game it was mostly up to the catcher.
"Buck has a good understanding of what we want to accomplish with Ramirez," he answered.
• McClendon visited Angels hitting coach Don Baylor at the hospital Tuesday afternoon before he was taken in for surgery to repair the broken femur he suffered on the ceremonial first pitch Monday night. McClendon said that Baylor was in good spirits and that it was important to stop by to see him.
"He has always been an idol of mine," McClendon said.
The Angels have replaced Baylor while he recovers with minor-league hitting coordinator and former Mariner Paul Sorrento.
• This one's for you, Cameron. Cameron gave me a "homework" assignment and asked if I could find out what Robinson Cano said to Justin Smoak after Smoak's three-run homer in the ninth inning Monday. Well, I asked Smoak on the "Mariners Clubhouse Insider" segment of the pregame show and here is what he had to say.
"He told me he wasn't helping me no more," Smoak said with a smile. "He was just messing around. It was all fun and games. We were just excited to get that first win out of the way and go from there."
As for the home run, Smoak said everything came together for him on that swing.
"To be able to pull that ball like I did, I finally got that pitch middle in to in and was able to keep it fair and not hook it. In the past I have bailed out trying to get to it and last night I just trusted everything and it all worked out."
• Not homework but I know some of you were wondering just what to think of Abraham Almonte getting thrown out while trying to steal second in the first inning. I asked McClendon if this was a good place for him to go and perhaps that wasn't the best question to ask the skipper because it turns out Almonte doesn't have the green light. This makes sense. He is young and doesn't know the pitchers. So he was told to go. The decision was made on the bench. McClendon said that the problem was it was Jered Weaver's quickest time to the plate in that at-bat. Just unlucky.